SEATTLE (August 18, 2020) – The City of Seattle will host the first in a series of workshops providing undocumented immigrants and DACA-recipients an opportunity to meet with an immigration attorney. This clinic, conducted through phone and online video conferencing, is sponsored by King County Bar Association (KCBA) and the American Immigration Lawyers Association Washington Chapter (AILA-WA), in partnership with the Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA).
Fee scholarship funds are also now available to individuals who are unable to afford the cost of the DACA renewal application fee and who reside in, or work in, or go to school in Seattle. The nonprofit organization El Centro de la Raza is managing the scholarship process.
OIRA began organizing these workshops shortly after the June 18th Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decision ordering the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to return the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to the 2017 status quo, prior to the President’s attempt at ending the program. However, in defiance of both SCOTUS and an additional federal court order compelling the full restoration of DACA program, DHS recently announced a number of sweeping updates to the DACA program:
- DACA status renewals would only last for one year, instead of the previously two.
- DHS would not be accepting initial applications from individuals who have never had DACA in the past.
- DHS would be restricting requests for permission to travel abroad, (known as “advance parole”) for current DACA recipients, unless in cases of “exceptional circumstances.”
“This latest act of cruelty from the Trump administration is yet another in a long string of major setbacks for all Americans.” said Mayor Jenny A. Durkan. “The DACA program has opened opportunities for undocumented immigrants to attend school, help communities, and keep families together. And not only is this action inept public policy, but it also seems to reject the rule of law and the Supreme Court’s final say.”
This first virtual legal clinic will take place on Monday, August 31, from 4-7 p.m. Since U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is still currently accepting DACA renewal applications, the clinic will offer an opportunity to have an applicant’s renewal packet reviewed by an immigration attorney. Advocates have emphasized that completing the forms accurately will prevent potential delays, as well as the rejection or denial of the renewal application.
While DACA allows for a temporary protection for recipients, it does not lead to lawful permanent resident status (green card) or a path to citizenship, and may be withdrawn in the future. For all of these reasons, OIRA also recommends that undocumented individuals, including DACA recipients, be screened for other forms of immigration relief. Individuals will have a half-hour to meet with an attorney.
Studies have estimated that 20-25 percent of DACA recipients screened by a legal service provider were found to be eligible for a more permanent form of status. These options include U visas, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, family-based immigration, relief under the Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA), and even citizenship. Even if a person was thoroughly screened prior to applying for DACA initially, changes in personal circumstances or immigration policy may mean that a new form of relief is now available. Applicants are required to sign-up for a time slot here: https://forms.gle/6AjGXqvZfqbncDHe7.
This series of workshop partnerships has been funded by a $375,000 disbursement from Council President M. Lorena González to OIRA meant for “rapid response” coordination. This funding has also helped inform immigrants about the confusing Trump administration “public charge” rule, as well as other anti-immigrant actions.
“It continues to be incredibly important to help support our immigrant and refugee communities, especially at a time when the pandemic has exacerbated inequities, and with the ongoing attacks and targeting of immigrants from the Trump Administration,” said Council President González. “Many households have been left out of federal aid programs meaning we need more mutual aid and for local government to step in. Undocumented immigrants in our community can attend these free virtual legal clinics to learn about their rights, protections, and have access to immigration attorneys and additional resources. Thank you to OIRA for your creativity to continue these workshops virtually during this challenging time, showing Seattle will always be a welcoming place to all our community members, regardless of immigration status.”
To apply for a DACA renewal fee scholarship fund, please visit: elcentrodelaraza.org/get-help/daca/.
The specifics for the later legal clinics are to be determined. For more information about the City of Seattle’s ongoing work regarding DACA and information about future clinics, please visit: www.seattle.gov/daca.