WASHINGTON ― Politicians, private donors and organizations have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help young undocumented immigrants who are eligible to renew deportation relief but need to come up with a nearly $500 application fee within weeks.
Democratic Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Monday that she had helped secure a commitment of more than $170,000 from donors to pay renewal fees for anyone in the state who is eligible to reapply for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which President Donald Trump rescinded earlier this month.
A nationwide fund for DACA recipients has raised about $500,000 as of Monday, with an average donation of $60, according to the advocacy group United We Dream, which launched the fundraising effort with other advocacy groups last week. And the Mission Asset Fund, a California nonprofit, plans to distribute $1 million in scholarships to help 2,000 DACA recipients apply for renewal. Mission Asset Fund says it has already received more than 2,700 applications for the scholarship.
Immigrant rights supporters are hoping to minimize the damage caused by Trump’s decision to end DACA, which granted two-year work permits and deportation protections to nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children ― so-called Dreamers. Most DACA recipients will begin to lose their protections once their permits expire beginning next March, unless Congress steps in. But tens of thousands of them are eligible to renew, as long as they can get their applications by Oct. 5, and advocates are aiming to ensure none of them miss that window.
Although the administration rescinded DACA on Sept. 5, it is allowing Dreamers whose protections expire between that day and March 5 to apply for renewal. Their applications are due Oct. 5, and must include a $495 fee that goes toward a background check and other processing.
“For many of these young people, the rug is being pulled from under their feet,” said Walter Barrientos, the Long Island organizing director for the advocacy group Make the Road New York. “Many of these young people come from low income families and their job, their income is not only helping them support their schooling, usually their college ... but also supports their families.”
There are an estimated 154,000 DACA recipients whose permits will expire in that period, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Some likely had already sent in their renewal applications before Trump rescinded the program ― experts recommend reapplying at least 120 days before permits expire, if not sooner ― but others were planning to do it later, in part because of the cost. Now they need to move quickly.
Immigrant rights advocates and some business leaders have urged the Trump administration to extend the deadline, and a Justice Department attorney said in court last week that they were “actively considering” doing so after hurricanes hit several states, but the administration has made no official changes.
“The deadline is pretty arbitrary and unworkable,” said Anu Joshi of New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), which is helping provide free legal services for DACA recipients. “What they’re basically asking [eligible DACA recipients] who might not have been prepared to do their renewals this early to drop everything to try to get these applications in.”
Immigrant advocacy groups are urging anyone eligible to renew DACA to do so, but also to speak with legal professionals to see whether they have other options available to remain in the U.S. legally.
Given the expense of both the fee and legal help, the scholarships and other programs are a relief for DACA recipients. Olga Reyes, a 24-year-old Dreamer who lives in Queens, said she is applying for a scholarship because she hasn’t yet saved enough to apply to renew her DACA, which she did not expect to do until later. She works as an assistant teacher, but some of her money goes toward buying things for her younger siblings. She pointed out that some people, such as DACA recipients with children of their own, are in even tighter financial situations.
“Many of us, many of the DACA people, are in a rush to get the money,” Reyes said. “Some of them are working for minimum wage, some are them are working for a little bit more but at the end of the day, it’s another bill that you have and it’s a bill that comes unexpected. ... It’s just crazy.”