When Federal Judge William Alsup opened a tiny crack in the Trump Administration’s intention to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Legal Aid sprang into action.
On Jan. 9, 2018, San Francisco-based Alsup ordered U.S. immigration officials to accept applications again for DACA renewals, ruling that plaintiffs were likely to succeed on their claim that the rescission of DACA was arbitrary. On Jan. 13 (a Saturday), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) resumed accepting DACA renewal applications because of the court order.
On Monday, Jan. 15, Legal Aid posted a note on its website, in both English and Spanish, “If you have DACA or your DACA card expired, you may be able to renew your card.” Then Jenny Horne of Legal Aid’s Teen Parents’ Project started working the phones.
“I have 25 clients or former clients who have DACA now and have cards expiring after March 5. They could be eligible to renew now under the court order,” Horne said. “I have a lot expiring in March or April.”
She advises her clients to file renewal applications quickly because the government on Jan. 16 served notice it will appeal the ruling. Applications could be cut off at any time.
For some of Horne’s Dreamers, the $495 filing fee is a barrier. Legal Aid will tap its small emergency fund and also is seeking donations from private funders to underwrite filing fees.
“I’m personally very excited,” Horne said. “It’s so sad to have clients say their DACA card has expired so their employers won’t keep them on. It’s a big opportunity for clients.”
Once her current clients all file applications, Horne doesn’t expect the flow to slow. “We will get other calls as the news gets out. I have already gotten some calls from former clients who have siblings with expiring DACA cards.”
Filing an application doesn’t guarantee extended DACA status—USCIS may turn down the applications or sit on them rather than moving forward. Still, for the Dreamers the dream is alive again—thanks to Legal Aid.
Tim Clark is a partner at The FactPoint Group, a Silicon Valley-based research and consulting firm dedicated to the business improvement of its clients. He is a dedicated Legal Aid volunteer concerned with the issues facing low-income persons in our community.