Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo announced funding to cover every Rhode Island DACA recipient eligible to renew their application before the October 5 deadline. The funding does not come from the state.
“A couple of weeks ago, when the Trump administration announced its plan to end the DACA program, we gathered in Central Falls and pledged to do everything in our power to stand up for Rhode Island’s DREAMers,” said Raimondo, entering the room with nine DREAMers in tow. “We’re not going to allow $495 to stand in the way of our neighbors’ dreams. Now is the time to fight for our values and take action against hatred and bigotry.”
To that end Raimondo announced that she and “a coalition of individuals and organizations” have secured more than $170,000 from donors to cover the $495 renewal fee for every DREAMer in Rhode Island who is eligible to apply for renewal of their Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status.
“As the state’s community foundation, our mission is to meet the needs of all Rhode Islanders; DREAMers are Rhode Islanders,” said Neil Steinberg, President & CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation, the group coordinating the contributions and making grants to community agencies that are helping to process the renewals. “We are proud to work with our generous donors, the governor, and local community agencies to provide the funding needed to offset the cost of DACA renewal fee payments for those who are eligible.”
On September 5, President Donald Trump announced the end of DACA, which grants temporary deportation relief and work authorization to eligible individuals who were brought to the United States as undocumented immigrants at a young age. More than 1,200 DACA recipients live in Rhode Island and their status and future in this country is uncertain.
In addition to the money for renewal applications, the governor announced that the Rhode Island Center for Justice, the Immigration Clinic at the Roger Williams University School of Law, the Pro Bono Collaborative at the Roger Williams University School of Law, Progreso Latino, Dorcas International Institute and the Coalition of Advocates for Student Opportunities (CASO) will coordinate outreach and services including pro-bono legal representation and assistance filing DACA renewal applications.
Governor Raimondo also announced her appointment of staff in the Office of Constituent Affairs to serve as the administration’s liaison to the network. The administration will also designate staff from other state agencies to serve as liaisons to DREAMers with questions about the impact of the end of the program and to direct DREAMers to resources and assistance.
Deborah Gonzalez, Director of the Immigration Clinic at the Roger Williams University School of Law broke down both the legal situation surrounding DACA recipients and outlined their options. The information below is extremely important to DREAMers, so I took the time to break it down into bite size chunks and transcribe it:
“DACA as we know it has effectively ended as of September 5, 2017… That means if you have now become eligible for DACA, where you have never had DACA before, you are no longer able to apply for DACA benefits. That needed. If you are a first time DACA applicant, and immigration received your application before September 5, then that application will be adjudicated on a case by case basis.
“Anyone else who had been eligible for it or would have been eligible is now out, as the program is needed.
“What has continued, however, is renewals. So DACA recipients who have DACA until March 5, 2018, those DACA recipients can renew their DACA status for another two-year period, if they submit their application to immigration by October 5. That means the application must be in the mail, certified mail or overnight, on October 3. So today is [September] 18 so you really only have about 15 days, ten of which are business days, Immigration doesn’t work on weekends.
“So if you have a DACA that is expiring on March 5, 2018, you must renew by October 3, 2017, with a drop dead date of October 5, 2017.”
“So a lot of people have come to me and said, ‘I don’t know, Debbie. Why should I trust this administration? For all I know that are going to rip the rug from under me and they’re going to undo my DACA.
“My answer to that is, Maybe. We really don’t know what this administration is going to do, there’s no way of knowing. But what we do know is that as of today, September  this administration has promised to accept [DACA renewals] until October 5, with the expectation that DACA recipients will get renewed.
“I highly recommend that if you are eligible for DACA, that you renew. Don’t be afraid because you may think the government is going to use your information and use it for something else… If you are elegible for renewal, meaning that if your DACA expires on March 5 or before that date, you’re eligible to renew but only until October 5, 2017.”
“For DACA holders who expire on March 6 and beyond, unfortunately you will not be able to renew your DACA status. But rest assured that the administration’s promised, as of today, from what we know, that your DACA will not be revoked…
“So a DACA recipient may have DACA until 2018 and potentially 2019. You will have that period of time of protected status under DACA. That date is determined by the authorization card that the DACA recipient has. If you’re a DACA recipient and you’re not sure, please call any of the organizations in the immigration coalition that you heard the governor speak of.”
“I also want to day to those whose status will expire on March 6 and beyond: Do not despair. Know that there is a coalition of advocates who are here to help you. We are doing what we can and we will continue to work to help protect you.
“My best advice that I can give any one of you is if your DACA expires on March 6 or after, please go see a reputable immigration attorney or a board of immigration appeals accredited representative, so you can find out whether or not there is any other form of relief you may be eligible for, meaning, Is there any other immigration benefit you may be able to apply for?
“You’ll never know that unless you go see somebody.”
“Many DACA holders have travel documents as a result of their status. The travel document also has not been rescinded, meaning that that document is still valid in the event that the recipient chooses to travel.
“I am an immigration lawyer. I do not recommend travel.
“We have been told that customs and border patrol officers, which has always been the case, have discretion to deny entry even if you have this status. As a DACA recipient, knowing that it will expire, chances of them denying entry are higher than they would have been in the past. Therefore I would recommend that you not travel because you run the risk of not being allowed back into the US.
“Also, applying for a travel document now will do you no good. Those applications are also not being received by immigration and they will be rejected.”
“We hear a lot in the news about how Congress has six months to act. Six months means nothing to me, as an advocate, to DACA recipients who have their DACA. There is no six months. The program ended effectively, as we know it, on September 5, when the announcement was made.
“Renewals will only be accepted until October 5, at the immigration office, and only if those DACA recipients expire in the next six months can they get renewal. So that’s where the government is getting six months.
“Where is the six months coming from? It’s that March 5 date. It’s the drop dead date that DACA recipients can renew their status.
“Congress has an infinity of time to work on immigration reform.”
“There are clinics that are going on at Dorcas International on a daily basis, from 9am-4pm. Any DACA recipient who needs help with their application can go to Dorcas and they will see a Board of Immigration Appeal accredited specialist who will help you figure out your application.
“Progreso Latino has the same offer.
“Catholic Social Services has the same offer.
“At the Immigration Clinic at Roger Williams University you can call me and I’ll be happy to see you by appointment.
“And more importantly, the Rhode Island Hispanic Bar Association are having an immigration clinic this Saturday at Progreso Latino, 626 Broad Street, from 10am to 1pm where they’ll provide services for DACA recipients who need help filling out their forms.
“In addition to all that there’s all this wonderful funding that the governor has told us about. So Dorcas International, Center for Justice, Progreso Latino, CASA and the Catholic Social Services are all working in tandem.
“If you go to any of these organizations, they will know who to contact so that you can get the funding. The application process is taking 24 hours, 48 hours at most. So in 48 hours and hopefully less you should have your check so you can submit your application.
“So if your don’t know how to fill out the form or there’s no money, please call me. Call the Center for Justice, call Progreso Latino, call Dorcas International. All of us are here to help you.”
Here’s a short Q & A from the end of the press conference.