With yesterday’s close of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) renewal period imposed by the Department of Homeland Security, I am proud to report on the work by students, staff and faculty at UNLV Law to help dreamers in Nevada.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on September 5 that the Trump Administration plans to end the DACA program, and gave beneficiaries just one month to apply for renewals. Within a week, the UNLV Immigration Clinic had organized volunteers who were ready to help complete the DACA forms. Three student organizations, La Voz, Black Law Students Association, and Immigration Law Society, organized a community event on September 16 at which Rep. Ruben Kihuen spoke.
Over the course of the month, 65 law student volunteers were trained on DACA renewals, as well as six law school faculty and staff members. We want to thank Fileright.com for contributing access to their software, which allowed us to rapidly train dozens of volunteers and be ready within days to help DREAMers complete their applications.
Our volunteers took time out of their days to assist DACA recipients who needed help. As the deadline approached, students and staff at the law school stepped forward to help DACA recipients, in some cases with just an hour notice. In the course of this work, we met aspiring teachers, students working part-time to finance their educations, and professionals helping to build new industries in Southern Nevada. We met parents who are undocumented, but who nevertheless made sure to bring their children to renew their permits, so that they can stay in school.
Our most difficult conversations were with students who could not renew their permits, and who fear for their futures after DACA ends in March. As a professor, it is painful to tell students at my own university that I do not know if they will be able to pursue their careers after graduation. Like many others, I hope a political solution to this problem comes very soon.
In total, 61 people contacted us to make initial appointments. We were able to complete DACA renewal applications for 41 members of our community. We provided legal consultations for several others. With the help of private donations and our partners at the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada and the Consulate of Mexico, we were also able to help many DACA recipients obtain financial assistance with the $495 filing fee.
Like many organizations in this state and nationwide, we were initially concerned that demand for our DACA services was lower than expected. However, I am encouraged by national data showing that more than 75 percent of eligible recipients renewed their permits. While I certainly wish the number was higher, this is a fairly good response rate given that DACA recipients who needed to renew were given no written notice, had less than one month to respond, and had to find the money for a significant filing fee. This suggests that projects like ours succeeded in getting the word out about the DACA renewal process, and that many DREAMers were able to complete the process on their own.
I have never been prouder to be part of the UNLV Law community, nor more aware of how much work we have to do.
Prof. Michael Kagan
UNLV Immigration Clinic Director