by Amina Ibrahim
This week the City of Seattle announced free legal clinics for undocumented immigrants and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients as well as highlighted its scholarship fund to help cover DACA renewals. Both of these efforts are in response to the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant and refugee rhetoric and policies.
Joaquin Uy, the External Affairs Manager and Policy Advisor at the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA), explains that the city had set aside $375,000 last year for a rapid response program to support emergent needs and $50,000 for the DACA renewal scholarship fund at the direction of councilmember Lorena González. This year they were able to raise an additional $25,000 from Facebook for the scholarship fund, which was officially launched in March.
“The intent of that money is to respond to the Trump administration’s ongoing anti-immigrant [and] anti-refugee actions that have broad and very dramatic effects and immediate impacts to the immigrant and refugee residents of the city of Seattle,” says Uy.
The first in a series of virtual legal clinics will take place on August 31st and is sponsored by the King County Bar Association and the American Immigration Lawyers Association Washington Chapter. Individuals will be able to sign up for time slots and will be contacted by an immigration attorney.
Dulce, who has requested her last name not be used, is a Seattle resident and has been a DACA recipient since 2012. Several of her family members are also enrolled in the program. She emphasizes the importance of working with attorneys when filling out DACA materials.
“Since DACA started we have hired an attorney to file the proper paperwork for us,” says Dulce. “There was a lot of uncertainty and distrust in general, so we decided to feel a little safer by having legal representation.”
Dulce says that the cost of the renewal for her and other family members, though, in addition to the cost of an attorney, is a financial hit. At the beginning of April, Dulce was thankful to be able to apply for and receive the city’s scholarship for DACA renewal. Without the scholarship, DACA recipients have to pay $495.00 for each renewal application. For Dulce and her family, the renewal plus the price of hiring an attorney costs north of $2000. The scholarship, which is managed through the nonprofit organization El Centro de la Raza, is available to all DACA recipients who work, reside, or go to school in Seattle.
OIRA launched the scholarship fund through El Centro de la Raza this spring, then started organizing the legal workshops after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) defied this summer’s Supreme Court decision to restore DACA to its 2017 status quo. Instead, in late July, the DHS amended it further, announcing that DACA renewal applications now need to happen yearly, instead of every two years. In addition, DHS will not be accepting any new DACA applications from potential recipients, and will be restricting requests for permission to travel abroad.
Monserrat Padilla is co-director of the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network and a DACA recipient. She says the changes that the DHS has made show just how disconnected the Trump administration is from reality. This administration’s policies continue to be cruel and racist, she says, and have lasting negative impacts on the refugee and immigrant community.
“To make a shift from two years to one year during a global pandemic, during an economic downfall for the country, just shows another attack from this administration,” says Padilla. “[It shows] that [Trump] does not care for the lives of people of color in this country and that he is willing to create suffocating condition[s] for our communities [so that we cannot] survive in them.” She adds that, so far, DACA has been an opportunity for her to live and work without fear, but now she is reminded that she and other DACA recipients are far from belonging here and it will always be an emotional and spiritual process to constantly renew their DACA status.
Nonetheless, Padilla, like Dulce, says she’s thankful to live in a city and state that provide resources for DACA recipients and undocumented immigrants.
“As a DACA recipient and an immigrant myself, I am very lucky to live in a state and a city that holds true to their values,” Padilla says. “When they say ‘taking care’ of their residents, they mean all of them, including folks who are here to aspire for a better future and to seek safety. [Seattle’s] effort to launch online legal clinics for DACA recipients to fill out their forms and financially support them […] is a step in the right direction to ensure that none is left behind during a global pandemic and during an administration that is unstable and is targeting communities of color.”
Amina Ibrahim is a journalist and activist with a passion for reporting about underrepresented communities and her South Seattle neighborhood. She has previously done audio work that has aired on KUOW.
Featured image is attributed to Susan Ruggles under a Creative Commons 2.0 license