As DACA renewal period closes, advocates finding ways to support undocumented youth

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IECN Photo/Anthony Victoria: San Bernardino Community Service Center's Maria Espinoza helping a DACA recipient renew his status. The U.S. Department of Justice Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) accredited organization worked weekends to help Dreamers with their applications.

As federal lawmakers continue to discuss legislation to shield over 800,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation, advocates and students alike are working to help ‘Dreamers’ find support and temporary protections.

Over a dozen events have been held across the Inland region since September to help undocumented youth receive information on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that has given work authorization to young immigrants who entered the U.S. unlawfully before the age of 16.

Last month, the Trump administration announced it would be rescinding DACA on the basis of unconstitutionality. Nonetheless, they are allowing DACA recipients whose permits expire between September 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018 to renew their status before Thursday, October 5.

Legal and financial assistance helping address concerns

Local organizations such as the San Bernardino Community Service Center and the Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Collective raised money to help pay for the $495 DACA renewal application fee, while national organizations like the Mission Asset Fund awarded over $1 million in scholarships to approximately 2,000 Dreamers nationwide.

IEIYC has helped with DACA applications and renewals since its inception in 2012, explained the organization’s Outreach Coordinator Alondra Naves. They have revamped their efforts in recent months by scheduling daily appointments and hosting weekly events.

“There have been a lot of concerns and questions,” Naves said. “We’ve had to share some unfortunate news, but we’ve also emphasized that we’re going to continue to be here in the community and continue to provide resources that are available.”

Laws like the California DREAM Act will continue to provide undocumented students with financial aid for college, Naves shared. She said the IEIYC intends to hold workshops to help young immigrants navigate health resources and receive employment.

IECN Photo/Anthony Victoria: San Bernardino Community Service Center Executive Director Emilio Amaya said his organization and partnering groups will focus on identifying other legal options for DACA youth, as well as push federal lawmakers to find a permanent solution for Dreamers.

“Beyond October 5, our efforts will continue to emphasize on providing safe spaces to undocumented youth,” Naves confirmed. “We provide an outlet for them to share their experiences and get guidance and advice from people that have been in their shoes. They’re not alone.”

San Bernardino Community Service Center Executive Director Emilio Amaya said his staff has been working on weekends to accommodate Dreamers looking to renew their DACA status. Despite the efforts, he believes much more could have been done.

“It’s been good, but not what I was expecting,” Amaya said on September 29. “We could have accommodated up to 300 people. So far we’ve only provided assistance to about 120 DACA recipients.”

Amaya confirmed that his organization and partnering groups will focus on identifying legal “remedies” for undocumented youth and pressure federal lawmakers to introduce a permanent solution.

“The Dreamers are in a good position to get something achieved,” he said. “We have to be very cautious in supporting legislation that may benefit Dreamers, but harm their families.”

CSUSB ‘Dreamers’ remaining resilient amid uncertainty

IECN Photo/Anthony Victoria: Cal State San Bernardino students Natanel Chavez and Estefania Esparza are encouraging immigrant students to “come out of the shadows.”

Members of the Undocumented Advocates (UA) student organization, along with the Dreamers Resource Center at Cal State San Bernardino, held a rally on September 26 to encourage immigrant students to “come out of the shadows.”

“It’s been an emotional rollercoaster,” expressed UA spokeswoman Estefania Esparza, a 24-year-old fourth year psychology student at the university. “We needed to get some frustration out and let people know that we’re not going to stay quiet. We’re everywhere.”

Senior Natanel Chavez, 26, said not many of the 800 or so undocumented students on campus are comfortable speaking about their legal status. Chavez hopes UA and the staff at the Dreamers Resource Center will motivate Dreamers to continue pursuing their goals.

“We’re as American as we can be,” Chavez said. “We were raised here.”

DACA renewals alleviating financial concerns for Dreamers

Ana Armas, 21, of San Bernardino was struggling to finish her DACA renewal application. She decided to attend a recent renewal clinic at St. Catherine’s Church in Rialto on September 30 for help.

“It alleviated a lot of my concerns,” Armas confirmed. “It has been a very difficult process, but a lot of my questions were answered.”

Vicente Ruiz, 19, wasn’t able to send out his renewal due to some missing documents, but said he will follow up with the San Bernardino Community Service Center.

“I feel better [about my situation] because I found out I can still go to college even if I don’t have [DACA],” Ruiz said. “I’m grateful for this.”


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