Law school clinics support DACA recipients

  • Photo by Molly Adams

When President Trump announced earlier this month that his administration would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, law schools around the nation quickly responded by setting up legal clinics to help DACA recipients renew their protections.

“Most DACA card holders have no memory or have no connection with their country of birth,” said Laura Hernandez, a law professor at Baylor Law School and founder of the Baylor Law Immigration Clinic. “They have been in the United States since they were children and many of the DACA applicants that we supported, or that we helped fill out their applications, came to this country as young as one or two.”

The Obama-era program allowed undocumented immigrants who came the U.S. before the age of 16 and before June 15, 2007, to apply for a two-year stay of deportation. Applicants also qualified for a work permit, which would allow them to see employment and education opportunities. DACA recipients were able to renew their applications every two years.

The DACA program was rescinded by the Trump administration in early September; however, people whose DACA protections expire before March 5, 2018 have one last opportunity to renew their DACA applications by Oct. 5.

 


Nearly 800,000 people are protected from deportation by DACA.


 

The president’s decision puts people like Brenda Silva, a working mother of six, in danger of deportation. With DACA, Silva was able to find work as nighttime cleaner in Boulder, the Boulder Daily Camera reported. She was also able to obtain a driver’s license, which allowed her to shuttle her children to school.

Silva’s DACA protection was eligible for renewal. She found help at University of Colorado Law School, where she and five other DACA recipients received legal assistance from students participating in the Wolf Law Immigration Defense Clinic.

“It’s a good opportunity,” she told the Daily Camera. “At least this would give us another two years to figure things out.”

In addition to the paperwork involved, Silva and the other renewal applicants faced a $495 fee. The Boulder Community Foundation raised several thousand dollars to pay for those fees, including a $5,000 contribution from Colorado Law Dean Jim Anaya.

With the renewal deadline quickly approaching, the Wolf Law clinic scheduled four more DACA clinics open to students and the general public. 

 


"The consequences of not getting paperwork done in time are extremely harsh."


 

Similar clinics popped up at The University of Kansas School of Law and Washburn University School of Law, where law school faculty received multiple calls a day requesting information about DACA.

Gillian Chadwick, an associate professor at Washburn University, said the renewal of DACA protections is not a complex process, but the high stakes and narrow window for renewal has prompted more people to seek advice from an attorney or student intern.

“The timeline is very short and the consequences of not getting paperwork done in time are extremely harsh in this scenario,” said Melanie DeRousse, associate clinical professor at the University of Kansas and director of Douglas County Legal Aid.

At Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, the Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic has helped hundreds of DACA recipients renew their protections since the Trump Administration announced its repeal. Since January 2016, LIJC has assisted with more than 420 DACA applications and renewals.

“DACA has impacted family stability and building of communities,” LIJC Co-Director Montes told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It has allowed parents to work legally in the U.S. and earn an income in order to provide for their families, which include their own parents, their children and extended family members such as their siblings.”

 


"Dreamers have always been a source of pride and celebration within this law school."


 

While law schools are helping DACA recipients complete renewal forms, law students at Yale Law School are taking the Trump administration to court. Just hours after the administration announced its DACA decision, the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic filed a lawsuit on behalf of a young Immigrant living in New York, and the organization Make the Road New York, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The lawsuit claims that President Trump’s actions violate federal law and the equal protection guarantee under the Constitution.

“Revocation of the program betrays our nation’s commitments to fairness and equality,” said Dean Heather Gerken. “Dreamers have always been a source of pride and celebration within this law school. They are – and will always be – full members of our community, and we will support them in any way we can.”

President Trump has given Congress six months to pass legislation to protect DACA participants.

The Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday, Sept. 26, that the renewal deadline will not be extended, CNN reported. 

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