“We serve our nation best when the best among us are given a chance to contribute."
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced this week that the Trump administration is rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Established in 2012, DACA has offered undocumented individuals, often described as Dreamers, who were brought to the United States as children a chance to be shielded from deportation. Now, nearly 800,000 young people who live, work, and attend school in our communities face the risk of deportation.
“We recognize and value the contributions made by Dreamers to our communities and our country,” says David Stern, Executive Director of Equal Justice Works. “We serve our nation best when the best among us are given a chance to contribute. We will continue our ongoing effort to ensure that immigrant communities have fair and equal access to legal representation.”
From 2015 to 2017, Equal Justice Works has supported Fellows providing high quality, high-volume legal services to immigrants seeking relief through DACA. Here are a few of the many incredible stories of DACA recipients who have gained legal protection to go to college and support their families, as told by the Fellows who assisted them.
Veronica Garcia, 2016 Fellow at Centro Legal de la Raza in Oakland, California.
In light of recent developments, Centro Legal de la Raza is offering free informational events for DACA recipients and other interested parties in Oakland: on September 9, they will host a community forum featuring free immigration consultations with attorneys; on September 15, they will host a DACA renewal workshop.
“S. and M. are sisters who have lived in California since they were two and five years old. In 2006, when S. was a sophomore in high school, she participated in Centro Legal's Youth Law Academy (YLA), a program for local high school students interested in pursuing legal careers. While S. attended the YLA after school, M. would hang around the Centro Legal office waiting for her older sister and dreaming of one day becoming an attorney herself. M. joined the YLA as soon as she was old enough.
Both sisters dreamed of going to law school but knew that their undocumented status would make their path to law school extremely challenging. Fortunately, Centro Legal was able to apply for M. and S.’s first DACA in August of 2012 and has continued to offer them and their family legal support. Last year, M. attended Centro Legal's Diversity Legal Pipeline, a program for college students and graduates interested in law school. Now, both sisters have graduated from universities and are on their way to attaining advanced degrees.”
“One family stands out in particular among the team's rural clients. The team connected with the family through an outreach presentation in the Denver-Metro area. The family lived in an undeserved part of the state and traveled over an hour to attend the presentation. Initially, we provided DACA representation for one of the children in the family. The family was one of the most vulnerable families that the team had worked with: they had been victimized by notarios several times, and had been taken advantage of financially because the client's parents were unable to read or write. Over the course of the team's representation of the client, the family was evicted from their home and one of the parents lost their job. The team successfully obtained DACA for the client and is currently providing additional legal assistance to one of the parents.”
Megan Sheffield, 2014 Fellow at Equal Justice Center (EJC) in Austin, Texas.
For those in the Austin, Texas area, EJC provides individualized legal assistance to help with DACA applications, and offers a toll-free hotline at (888) 670-6854. In preparation for the October 5th DACA renewal deadline, EJC has set up an emergency fund to help pay the $495 application fee—a high barrier for many—required for those applying for DACA renewal. Donations in any amount will be used entirely to pay these application fees, and can be made on EJC's website prior to October 5th, here.
“In one case in particular, I was able to assist a client in obtaining Advance Parole, a special permit that enabled her to travel outside the United States and safely return. This client used her Advance Parole to study abroad—completing a requirement for her bachelor degree—and visit an ailing family member outside of the U.S. In the course of this representation, I also assisted with reopening her prior removal case and successfully terminating her prior deportation order. This gave her the freedom to not only achieve her educational goals and visit a sick relative she had not seen in decades, but it also opened up additional immigration opportunities for her in the future.”