DREAMers Receive Assistance from LAA
New Haven Legal Assistance began taking applications for people seeking legal advice and assistance regarding applications for "Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals," the program announced by the Obama Administration in June 2012. Beginning August 15, 2012 certain groups of young undocumented immigrants can receive protection against deportation and work permits for two years, which can be renewed. The new federal policy applies to undocumented immigrants who were under 16 when they came to the U.S., have lived here for five continuous years, have a clean criminal record, and were under the age of 30 as of June 15, 2012. Immigrants must be enrolled in school, have graduated from high school, or have served honorably in the military.
LAA is collaborating with the following agencies to provide legal assistance and community education: Apostle Immigrant Services, Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services (IRIS), JUNTA for Progressive Action, Quinnipiac University School of Law Civil Justice Clinic, and Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School. These organizations work together to provide a wide array of services to the clients, including legal advice and assistance, translation services, and document compilation and preparation.
To date, LAA has assisted over 100 clients, ranging in age from 15 through 30 and residing in towns across New Haven County. Clients have hailed from countries such as Ecuador, Mexico, Jamaica, Argentina, Honduras, Columbia, Guatamala, Peru, and Chile. Attorneys Amy Eppler-Epstein, Sheila Hayre, and James Bhandary-Alexander devote the first hour of each clinic to presenting a brief overview of the eligibility requirements of the clinic and the application process. Depending on the composition of the clinic attendees, this portion of the clinic is conducted in Spanish or English. All three aforementioned attorneys are bilingual. Maria Velez, an LAA paralegal, works diligently to screen all applicants prior to the clinic and assists with creating files for them and organizing their documentation. Volunteer attorneys and law students assist with the clinic each week.
Reflecting on her experience with the clinic so far, Amy Eppler-Epstein commented, "It has been wonderful to get to work with all of these terrific young people. They come in with their files full of awards and accomplishments, and it is great to be able to do something to help them towards a brighter future. One young woman came to the clinic for her third time, with her mother, to have me check over her completed application before she sent it off. She was so excited and nervous to file it, she actually had her mom seal the envelope for her! And she has been emailing to keep me posted any time she gets any news (such as when she got the confirmation that USCIS had received the application). So often we help clients in such sad, difficult situations, but the cases that qualify for our DACA clinic are all so positive. It is really a ray of sunshine to be able to work on these DACA cases with these young students and their families."
The clinic runs every Wednesday from 2:00-5:00pm at LAA. Interested volunteers may contact Amy Eppler-Epstein at email@example.com for more information.