DACA recipients welcomed in workshop at Mission High School

At Mission High School on Saturday, volunteers and government officials came together to create a workshop for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) renewals in response to the Trump administration’s closure of the program.

Hundreds of DACA recipients flooded the high school’s halls, and patiently waited in line and through a presentation, in the hope that their DACA could be renewed. In San Francisco alone, there are 5,000 eligible recipients, according to the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs. A little less than 1,000 of the recipients are students, and among them are students at San Francisco State University.

“The city wants to do everything to help DACA holders,” said Adrienne Pon, executive director for the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs, the same organization in charge of the event. “Our hope is that any person eligible will be able to walk out of this event and with a check from homeland security. Our office and partners do everything we can to help these immigrants as much as we can, to make them feel valued, and to feel included in our San Francisco community.”

People attend a renewal workshop hosted by the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs, following President Trump’s move to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, at Mission High School in San Francisco, Saturday, September 23, 2017. (Golden Gate Xpress/Cristabell Fierros)

“This means a lot to me because it means two more years to have a work permit,” said Christopher Alvayero Cruz, one of the DACA recipients who was approved for renewal. “The people volunteering here were so clear in what they meant, they were pretty smooth about it. Made it a lot easier for me.”

An important deadline looms for DACA holders whose status expires before March 5, 2018, as applications to renew their status must be submitted to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before Oct. 5.

“This was an emergency workshop,” said Pon. “We have a small window of opportunity to help DACA holders. You wanna make sure there’s no barriers to get them the help they need.”

Several organizations volunteered to help the recipients, including some non-profits and law firms such as the Mission Asset Fund, Hastings College school of law, and Farella, Braun and Martel.

“The purpose of our fund is to help anyone eligible to renew their DACA,” said Doris Vasquez, project manager for Mission Asset Fund. “We have fundraised close to a million dollars for DACA. We’re just trying to help anyway we can.”

Helping the recipients through the final part of the process were several attorneys volunteering their time and expertise for the event.

“Our concern is there might be fear,” said Nadia Arid, litigation associate for Farella, Braun and Martel. “Because families are identifying themselves as undocumented immigrants.”

Not everyone attending the event walked away with a smile. Some DACA recipients deadline was in September or earlier.

“My DACA expired in September so I’m ineligible,” said Mariela Gallegos, an undocumented worker living in San Francisco. “I just want an opportunity like everyone else.”

There were still many recipients who managed to renew their DACA and walk out with a check to help them in their financial endeavours.

For some, this renewal means their dreams can become the American dream.

“Honestly it’s a big relief, I want to be a medical assistant and if it wasn’t for DACA and these people, it wouldn’t be possible, it’s amazing,” said Luz Suarez, a college student from Penn Foster. “It’s not just Latinos, it’s everyone coming together. It was really easy and simple, I felt so supported. I came in here intimidated but all the helpful people were just so nice and helpful.”

DACA renewals are limited to two years. In 2019 all DACA recipient’s funding will come to an end. Even though this event helped many undocumented immigrants out, there are still some that need help, all DACA recipients still for eligible are urged to go to LC4DACA.org to help them find their way.

A volunteer assists a DACA recipient during a renewal workshop hosted by the San Francisco Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs at Mission High School in San Francisco, Saturday, September 23, 2017. (Cristabell Fierros/Golden Gate Xpress)

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