DACA recipients have seized these opportunities: 91% are working, 69% got better-paying jobs, 54% moved to jobs more in line with their career aspirations, and more than half moved to jobs with better working conditions. Losing DACA recipients from the workforce would cost California an estimated $11.2 billion each year.
What Has Changed?
The Trump administration immediately stopped accepting new DACA applications, and gave DACA participants whose deferred status would expire in the next six months just one month to gather any required documents, come up with the $495 fee, and file their renewal applications. While advocates expected a DACA announcement, they did not anticipate that the administration would jam six months of renewals into a one-month period.
What is Legal Aid Doing to Protect Our Clients?
Legal Aid acted within hours of the DACA announcement. We saturated our social media channels with accurate information about the DACA changes, in English and Spanish; thousands of social media readers, who trust Legal Aid, read and shared the news that very day. In addition to being pleased that so many respect our reputation as a leading legal services provider in our community, I am proud that Legal Aid's dedicated public interest legal advocates ended our analysis of the DACA announcement with this sentence:
"YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Legal Aid stands with you in this struggle."
Teen Parent Project attorney Jenny Horne contacted her former DACA clients who might be eligible for renewal, to ensure they did not miss the deadline. Jenny worked with LIBRE Project Coordinator Vanessa Hearne and law graduate Stephanie Quintero to set up four DACA renewal workshops at Legal Aid the weeks of September 11 and September 19. Starting the next day, September 6, we publicized information about the workshops, as well as other workshops hosted by our community partners. We created a special page on our website for DACA information, with links from the home pages of the Legal Aid and bilingual LIBRE Project websites. Jenny held a training for staff members who wanted to help with DACA renewals. It turned out everyone wanted to help; chairs spilled out into the hallway. This week, we're holding appointment slots open for young immigrants seeking DACA renewal assistance before the October 5 deadline.
The entire community's response to the immediate need for DACA renewal help was swift, strong, and heartwarming. Legal services agencies all over the Bay Area hosted DACA renewal workshops. Local governments, foundations, and financial institutions stepped forward to cover the $495 renewal fee to remove that barrier for needy youth. Locally, Supervisor Warren Slocum's office approached Legal Aid to ask what the Board of Supervisors could do, and the Sobrato Family Foundation created a DACA application fee reimbursement fund to support its grantees in meeting this urgent need.
Unfortunately, many current DACA recipients are not eligible to renew under the new rules. Here's the story of just one:
"Elena" emailed Teen Parent Project attorney Jenny Horne on the day of the DACA announcement, asking if there was any way she could renew. Jenny had to tell her the bad news: her DACA expires March 16, 2018, just 11 days after the March 5 cut-off, which means she is not eligible to renew. Elena had just completed a medical assistant training program, hoping to get a better job to help support her young U.S. citizen child. Her reply to Jenny was heartbreaking: dejected that her dreams of working in the medical field had been dashed, she was still hopeful that something would change.
If Congress does not act, DACA participants like Elena will begin to lose their deferred action status, health insurance, and work authorization on March 6, 2018.