Making Government Work

Paperwork Stood Between Immigrants and Their Dream, So This Group Stepped In

February 27, 2014
Paperwork Stood Between Immigrants and Their Dream, So This Group Stepped In
A child listens as Erika Andiola, who recently resigned her position in the congressional office of Rep. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), speaks at a press conference held by the Dream Action Coalition on immigration reform December 4, 2013 in Washington, DC. Andiola's mother, Maria Andiola, faces deportation proceedings being conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Win McNamee/Getty Images
Immigrants brought to the U.S. as kids are allowed to stay, but often can't afford the filing fees to prove it.

In 2012, President Obama issued a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals memo that instructed the departments responsible for enforcing immigration laws to refrain from deporting immigrants who were brought to this country as children. The benefits from this policy don’t happen automatically, however. Immigrants must get legal help to prove their continuous residency in the United States, pay a $465 filing fee, and fulfill other requirements to qualify, and many people in this situation can’t afford to pay a lawyer. That’s where the Center for Legal and Social Justice at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio steps in.

About a year ago the center began offering free legal help to people who qualify for deferred action, and so far they’ve helped 200 low-income teens and young adults wade through the necessary paperwork. The center has succeeded with every single case it’s taken on during this mission. Once achieved, the deferral must be renewed every two years, and allows the immigrant to receive work authorization.

For 19-year-old Luis Garcia who arrived in the U.S. at age 2, help from St. Mary’s University “gave me the boost I needed to continue on forward,” he told Jennifer R. Lloyd of My San Antonio. Garcia is now a freshman at San Antonio College.

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