GAGE PARK — The Gage Park Latinx Council is helping undocumented immigrants cover the cost of applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status.
On Monday, the Southwest Side group launched the program to help applicants living in Gage Park pay the $495 application fee to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. With about $15,000 in hand, the council will cover the cost for 30 applicants, said Antonio Santos, co-founder and executive director.
Undocumented immigrants living in Gage Park can apply here. First-time applicants and applicants renewing their existing DACA status are eligible. The deadline to apply is 2 p.m. Friday.
Undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before their 16 birthday; were under the age of 31 as of June, 15, 2012; and are at least 15 years old at the time of submitting their DACA application are eligible for DACA status, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The application fee is a “huge financial burden” for families who are just getting by — especially as the pandemic continues to disproportionately affect Black and Latino families, many of whom are essential workers, Santos said. He hopes they can offer more help for DACA applicants in the future.
“Our work is always pivoting depending on the community’s needs and what we are hearing from folks,” Santos said. “Over the last couple of months, we have had more and more folks reaching out about DACA.”
The DACA program was created in 2012 to offer temporary protection to undocumented young adults brought to the United States as children. The program allows recipients to work and drive, but doesn’t offer a path to citizenship.
In 2017, President Donald Trump’s administration ended the program, which made it possible for new applicants to be considered. Trump also forced previous DACA recipients to reapply annually instead of every two years.
After several years of legal battles, the Supreme Court voted to uphold the program last summer. Last month, a federal judge reinstated the program, allowing new applicants to apply the first time since Trump ended it.
The Trump administration’s immigration policies created a lot of fear among the immigrant community, Santos said.
“I think people put off applying or renewing DACA because they didn’t trust the U.S. government to handle their information without passing it on to ICE,” he said.
While Santos said is skeptical President-elect Joe Biden and Democratic controlled Congress will create a pathway toward citizenship for DACA recipients, Santos said the immigrant community is “hopeful.”
“Hope isn’t something that our community has had any of in the last four years,” Santos said.
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