San Francisco Helping Dreamers Fill Out and Fund DACA Applications

by | September 22, 2017

By Dominic Fracassa

For the sliver of people still eligible to renew their benefits under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, San Francisco city officials are offering help with paperwork -- and money -- this weekend.

When the Trump administration upended DACA this month, throwing into question the immigration status of nearly 700,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, there was a glimmer of relief for a segment of DACA participants whose benefits are on the verge of expiring.

As Congress scrambles to draw up a legislative replacement for DACA, U.S. immigration officials have given participants whose benefits were set to expire by March 5, 2018, until Oct. 5 to re-enroll in the program.

With roughly 154,200 DACA beneficiaries facing that deadline, according to data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, San Francisco city officials are stepping in to help.

On Saturday, Mayor Ed Lee's Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs will offer a DACA renewal workshop where people seeking to renew their benefits can get on-site legal assistance and help filing their paperwork.

Notably, the city has also volunteered to pay the $495 in government fees. The workshop will be held at Mission High School from 1 to 5 p.m., and the city has placed no cap on the number of filing fees it's willing to cover.

City officials anticipate spending around $100,000 on the DACA applications, but "no one will be turned away," said Ellen Canale, a spokeswoman for the mayor.

"We want to remove as many barriers as possible to help these brave young individuals prepare for the Oct. 5 deadline," Lee said in a statement. "We asked them to step out of the shadows to pursue a better life in America, and we need to honor our commitment to their cause."

The workshop stemmed from discussions among Lee and Supervisors Sandra Lee Fewer, Hillary Ronen and Norman Yee about how to support DACA recipients -- often called "Dreamers," a nod to the Dream Act introduced by President Barack Obama that created the program -- now that the future of the program is in question.

The workshop is "one easy way to protect youth who have been able to feel like they have a future in this city because of DACA," Ronen said.

Since 2012, undocumented people brought into the United States before their 16th birthday have relied on

DACA's protections to live, work and attend school in the United States without fear of deportation, provided they meet certain requirements tied to education and criminal records.

San Francisco has been working to assist DACA beneficiaries since the program began, largely by providing funding to legal nonprofits serving immigrants, said Richard Whipple, deputy director of the mayor's immigrant affairs office. Through the 2019 fiscal year, the mayor's budget has $15 million set aside to expand multilingual legal services and educational programs for immigrants.

Whipple said that while Saturday's workshop is mainly intended to help eligible DACA recipients renew their benefits, he encouraged any Dreamer to attend and meet with an immigration attorney to "explore other immigration benefits that you might be eligible for."

That's welcome news for Lucy Limon of Pittsburg, a Dreamer who was brought to the country with her family from Jalisco, Mexico, when she was 5 years old. Now 23, Limon's DACA benefits are good through April 2019, which means she's not eligible to renew her benefits now. But she's been planning a trip to Washington, D.C., for months, and she said she's grappling with the uncertainty of whether, as a Dreamer, she'll encounter problems at the airport.

"I still have a lot of questions. I feel like I tried to Google all of them, but I don't have a clear answer," she said.

(c)2017 the San Francisco Chronicle