College students, lawyers providing free help to undocumented people applying for DACA program
OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - Immigration reform under the Biden administration means Dreamers across the country are in the process of applying for protected status and a group of students and lawyers are providing free services to an influx of immigrants who are interested in the program.
ImmigrationHelp.org is a non-profit that works off donations to provides free online services to immigrants who are applying for DACA or renewing their application. The group ensures all immigration forms and documents are ready for submission, according to Director of Outreach Fernando Urbina.
"What we're trying to do is help families bypass the usual thousands of dollars that they otherwise would have to pay an attorney to complete these processes," Urbina said.
Urbina is a junior at Harvard and co-founder of ImmigrationHelp.org. It’s a group made up of a undergraduate students, law students and attorneys. Since the Biden administration announced plans to preserve DACA, the group has seen an increase in the number of people visiting their website. They helped 500 people in January alone.
"My mother is an immigrant herself from Mexico and I remember she went through a complicated naturalization process," Urbina said. "Just hearing stories from her made me want to get really involved with immigrant-related work."
The group knows so many Dreamers are counting on DACA for their future, like Daniel. He was brought to the U.S. from Mexico by his mother at the age of 5 and the Bay Area is the only home he knows. He plans to apply for DACA for the first time in the coming weeks. Daniel declined to give his last name due to the current political climate and concerns of his family being targeted.
"I’m hoping I get accepted because it would be life changing," Daniel said. "We're Americans without documents and it sucks that we have to live in the shadows because a lot of us want to be a part of a community and feel as American as anyone else," he said.
Daniel is waiting on a consulate ID before he files an application for DACA, but has already turned to groups like ImmgirationHelp.org to guide him through the process.
"It helps a lot of us who have been in situations where we don't have the money to apply for DACA… or get consultation by a lawyer and all that stuff," Daniel said.
Urbina added that while the Biden Administration has chosen to preserve DACA, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.
"I think what we need to do is create a clear path forward toward citizenship for a lot of these individuals," Urbina said.