Eligible DACA recipients have just a few days left to ask the federal government to reauthorize work visas and delay possible deportation.
Officials from El Centro Hispano, along with the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, are working with local residents to beat the Thursday, Oct. 5, deadline.
The 2012 federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program allowed undocumented residents brought to the U.S. as minors apply for work permits and defer deportation for two years at a time.
Earlier this month the Trump administration announced it would phase out the program, a move Raleigh-based immigration attorney Ana Nuñez said has left many DACA beneficiaries worried.
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“Mostly folks are scared,” said Nuñez. “People have lived in this community for a long time, and they’re scared that their way of life and their family is going to be broken up. People who have DACA are really afraid they’re going to lose their jobs. These kids just want to help their families and they want to be be a member of society. I think ending this program has caused a lot of these kids to face the possibility that they are going to lose everything that they know.”
Adding to that uncertainty, the window of opportunity to reapply is only open for subset of recipients, those whose DACA and work authorizations expire between Sept. 5, 2017, and March 5, 2018.
“We think people aren’t very clear on who can renew,” said Pilar Rocha-Goldberg, president of El Centro Hispano, a nonprofit serving the Triangle’s Latino community.
She said of the roughly 800,000 DACA beneficiaries nationwide, an estimated 40 percent are eligible to renew before the October deadline. Those whose authorization expires after March 2018 will not have that option.
DACA renewal requires applicants to provide identifying documents, job history, photos, records relating to any criminal convictions, and a check or money order for $495 made out to the Department of Homeland Security.
Fearing that fee might be an obstacle for some eligible applicants, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen on Tuesday authorized the town manager to allocate up to $10,000 to help cover DACA renewal application costs for Carrboro residents.
Rocha-Goldberg said there’s also assistance available to other applicants thanks to private donors.
“We have the means to help,” she said.
Speaking at a DACA renewal information session on at Carrboro Town Hall on Thursday, the mayors of Carrboro and Chapel Hill offered their support.
“We want to be helpful,” said Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger. “We want people to feel welcome, and we want them to know we want to help keep you part of the community.”
Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle stressed the looming deadline.
“Spread the word to folks that this is ongoing and still urgent,” she said.
It’s not enough to get the forms in the mail by Thursday’s deadline, El Centro immigration attorney Bridgette Richards explained, as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services requires DACA paperwork to be physically received by the agency by Oct. 5.
“The latest time a person can send it is October 3 to get there by the morning or afternoon of October 4,”said Richards.
Nuñez urged anyone concerned about their immigration status to consult an attorney, as there may be other legal options to pursue.
“Whether you’re eligible for DACA or not, this is a great time to go talk to somebody about it to get some clear answers about what you’re eligible for or not eligible for,” she said.