Promise Arizona Helps DACA Recipients Renew Paperwork Before Deadline
On Tuesday, the Senate judiciary committee held a hearing on the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program. That’s the Obama-era policy that allows some unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the United States as kids to stay and work here legally.
The hearing kicks off a discussion on a long-term solution for DACA recipients. At the moment, DACA will begin to phase out next year.
Committee members questioned officials from the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice during the three-hour hearing. The exchanges were impassioned and sometimes heated as senators tried to parse out what the administration’s preferred approach would be.
But there is a more pressing issue right now: The deadline for those who need to renew their DACA status.
DACA recipients usually renew their permits a few months before they expire. But last month, the Trump administration said it would no longer accept any renewal applications after Thursday, Oct. 5.
Some DACA recipients are rushing to finish this week, trying to get their renewal paperwork postmarked early enough to arrive by Thursday.
“We’ve basically had to do six months worth of work in one month,” said Laura Perez, a volunteer with Promise Arizona who has been helping DACA recipients navigate the renewal.
Forty other people have sat at the large table in the Promise Arizona offices in the past few weeks, getting help with DACA. They all shuffled through papers, made photocopies of IDs and filled out the same seven pages.
“Can I see your previous application please?” Perez asked a woman named Laura on Monday evening.
Laura asked KJZZ not to use her full name. She renewed her DACA Monday with a rambunctious one-year-old in tow.
They filled out line after line of information, Perez clarifying details with Laura.
“We don’t know if they’re going to be really picky, and even people who have paid this huge amount of money, if they’re still going to be disqualified for just small details,” Perez said, referring to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which handles DACA applications.
The number of requests rejected each year has hovered below 10 percent of total applications. But Perez double checks every detail, because this time, there’s no chance to re-send if there’s a mistake.
Promise Arizona is also helping some applicants with all or part of the $495 renewal fee.
After all the technical information and signatures, the last page has a bunch of empty lines. It’s an optional section to explain why the applicant feels they need DACA.
“It’s important to have DACA because you can do so much stuff you can’t do without papers. You could work with the Social Security,” Laura said.
Laura just got a new job last month. That’s helping her support her two kids. She said before she had DACA, finding a job was really hard.
“Yeah it was a relief when I got it," Laura said.
And she hopes to get it again this time. If she does, she’ll be allowed keep it until it expires in another two years. But what happens to DACA recipients after their permits start expiring depends on Congress.
Meanwhile, volunteers at Promise Arizona are trying to find alternatives to DACA already available, that could help on an individual basis.
“For any people that have immigrated from Mexico, the Mexican Consulate is providing free immigration relief screenings so that they can see if they qualify through some other program,” Perez said.
Meaning, another way to defer deportation beyond DACA.
But Laura is thinking about the possibility that she may have to return to Mexico.
“I’ve been here since I was little,” she said. “Since I don’t know Mexico, it’s gonna be hard for me to go back. And I don’t know nothing about Mexico, I don’t know nobody, and this is my hometown. The United States is my country.”
And she wants to stay.
“That’s my biggest fear. I don’t want to go back,” Laura said.
Her application is in the mail, and she’ll know in a couple weeks if she was accepted again.
Those who haven’t sent in their paperwork yet will have to overnight it to try to get it in by Wednesday's deadline.