On September 5, President Trump announced the termination of the DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). This temporary relief was implemented in 2012 by President Obama, and granted work authorization and relief from deportation in 2-year increments for youth who were brought to the United States by their parents, passed a background check and paid a fee. DACA does not offer a path to full legalization or citizenship.
According to the NC Justice Center, there are “approximately 1.5 million individuals enrolled in the program (across the nation). In North Carolina, there are currently 49,712 DACA recipients”. This decision has led to a profound instability in the lives of these youth and their families. The Trump administration is leaving it up to Congress to pass legislation for undocumented immigrants that benefited from DACA. Communities have begun to organize as the six-month deadline approaches and the congressional action becomes more urgent. Advocates are encouraging a clean DREAM Act ~ HB3440 (in the House) and SB 1615 (in the Senate), reintroduced by Senators Graham and Durbin.
The window of opportunity for DACA renewal was incredibly narrow ~ only those whose DACA expired between 9/5/17 and 3/5/18, giving them only until 10/5 to submit their renewal applications. Of the 154,234 DACA beneficiaries whose benefits expire before next March, at least 36,000 did not submit their renewal applications. The reasons are fully clear, but may include fear of what USCIS could do with their information, inability to pay the $495 renewal fee, or because they could not find help in time to complete their application.
The Hispanic Liaison, along with many other non-profit and legal organizations across the state scrambled to help DACA youth. In late September and early October, free legal clinics were held across the state, and national and local donors established scholarship funds for the $495 renewal fee. Several area donors helped The Liaison create a modest scholarship fund. Sadly, the ability of organizations to mobilize came too late. Many eligible applicants had already submitted their application weeks before the free clinics were held. We are hopeful that there may be a new window of opportunity for DACA youth and are setting aside the donations to our scholarship funds for that purpose.