Experts, recipients urge young undocumented to apply for DACA
LOS ANGELES — Several Asian American advocacy groups urged undocumented immigrants to immediately take advantage of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA and other existing policies that provide relief from deportation
The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA, and Ready California expressed this urgent message during a media roundtable hosted by New America Media on July 28.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is an immigration policy that provides relief from deportation and a work permit for eligible undocumented youth.
Over 130,000 individuals of Asian and Pacific Islander descent in the United States may be eligible to request DACA, yet requests for DACA remain disproportionately low in the Asian and Pacific Islander community, according to a report by New America Media.
WATCH: DACA recipient Anthony Ng explains the impact of program. HIYASMIN QUIJANO
White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Senior Policy Advisor Reva Gupta said that opportunities that are available to DACA recipients allow them to come out of the shadows and become a part of mainstream society and the economy.
Gupta said, “At this point we see very low rates; only about 14.6 percent of Asian Americans who are eligible for DACA have actually requested DACA.”
‘Go to trusted organizations’
Los Angeles District United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Chief of Staff Martha Flores, announced that her agency has a list of reputable organizations on its website USCIS.gov, “so we highly encourage the public to seek help from the right sources who will be able to guide them through their individual immigration journey.”
Advancing Justice Los Angeles provides guidance on DACA and other services. DACA legal advocates advised that there are creative ways to fulfill requirements such as proof of stay, which could take the form of bill statements, remittance receipts, magazine subscriptions, and other types of documentation.
“Those who are approved for the DACA program, on a basic level, get a two-year renewable work permit, and they also get a social security number that allows them to apply for a driver’s license in most states or a California state ID,” said Tiffany Panlilio, DACA legal advocate of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA.
Filipinos still eligible
“I’ve had my DACA since 2012,” proudly announced Filipino American recipient Anthony Ng, whose parents moved to the United States in 2000; he and his siblings followed six months later.
“I still remember having a conversation with my mom about considering DACA. I remember how scared she was, not just for me but also for our entire family,” Ng stated. “She was skeptical of the program and what it would mean for the safety of our family. It took me a lot of effort to even get my mom to a place where she was okay with me going forward with the process. I think now after seeing the impact of the program she has a better perspective.”
Ng graduated from UCLA and now works at Advancing Justice Los Angeles.
Costs and other barriers
“The process was fairly easy for me because I knew of Advancing Justice Los Angeles, and the biggest obstacle was the $465 filing fee,” added Ng.
Some of obstacles include cost and lack of knowledge of the DACA policy, which applies to all undocumented youth in the United States who meet the criteria.
WATCH: Tiffany Panlilio of AAAJ-LA explains finance options for fees. HIYASMIN QUIJANO
“We have heard anecdotal information that there is a certain amount of shame in being undocumented and fear of coming forward that plays out much more significantly in our communities and in other communities, perhaps,” explained Gupta.
DACA recipient Michelle Yoon testified that the effort was worthwhile: “DACA has really allowed me peace of mind. Holding my work authorization card was probably one of the most emotional moments. As for my mom, the authorization card meant that her sacrifices weren’t in vain and that I could build a career, I could plan ahead and live without the fears and limitations she had.”
Senior staff attorney Shiu-Ming Cheer of the National Immigration Law Center stressed the importance of increasing the rate of Asian Americans applying for DACA: “We definitely encourage people to apply, the more people that apply, the more successful the program will be!”
Current action on DACA
“Recently, just within the past few weeks, the federal government filed a petition for rehearing, meaning they’re asking the Supreme Court to reconsider a rehear of the case when they have nine justices,” explained Cheer.
“So right now the case to challenge the DAPA for parents and expand the DACA programs is still ongoing,” Cheer clarified.
She explained that there might not be a 9th Supreme Court justice in place until the next administration. So it would mean that if the Supreme Court decides to rehear the case, it might not be until next fall.
Experts and advocates want eligible immigrants to take advantage of what is in place, which is the original 2012 DACA policy that is in operation. “We are here to make sure that those who are eligible for DACA protection apply,” states Panlilio.
“The individuals who meet the 2012 DACA guideline may continue to come forward and file an initial request or request an extension for DACA under the 2012 guidelines,” urged Flores.
WATCH: DACA recipient and AAAJ-LA Policy Advocate Anthony Ng. HIYASMIN QUIJANO
Since the first quarter of 2016, more than 230,000 individuals have received DACA in California.
Cheer explained the different options for obtaining lawful immigration status, such as DACA, U-visa, special immigrant juvenile visa, and the Violence Against Women Act.
The U-visa is for people who have experienced or have been a victim of a particular type of crime and have been harmed as result of that crime.
Those of young age might be eligible for a special immigrant juvenile visa. “This is a way to obtain a green card or lawful permanent resident status for people who have been neglected, abandoned, and/or abused and are juveniles,” Cheer said.
The Violence Against Women Act also provides a path to lawful permanent residency. It is “for people who have experienced domestic violence.”
A lot of people don’t know these options are available until they go and talk to an accredited representative or an attorney, the panel concluded.