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Legal help group aims to help first-time DACA applicants

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced it has resumed accepting new DACA requests.

MINNEAPOLIS — With the Biden administration, came many new things, but when it comes to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, it was back to the old.

"DACA stands for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and that protects individuals who arrived to the country at a very young age from deportations and allows them to get legal work permits," Fernando Urbina said. "It was implemented under the Obama administration. Currently the DACA status-- we're following the guidelines set by president Obama in 2012."

Urbina is the outreach director at immigrationhelp.org. 

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services says since December 7th of last year, they started accepting applications for first time requests as well as renewals again.

This comes after four years of the program being closed off to new applicants.

"Immigration help dot org is a legal non-profit that helps individuals prepare immigration forms for free," Urbina explained. "Our goal is to help individuals bypass high attorney fees that attorneys can charge to complete forms."

He added that not everyone can afford to have an attorney go through their documents prior to submission.

"Attorneys can charge up to thousands of dollars and on top of that there are usually high filing fees as well to submit these forms to the government," he said. "For example, DACA costs $495. On top of that thousands of dollars in attorney fees making immigration inaccessible to many people."

The team of undergrads, law students, paralegals and attorneys have helped thousands of folks eligible for DACA apply so far.

"We definitely have seen an increase in number of individuals from Minnesota who are seeking our services," Urbina said. "We know there's demand out there which is why we're trying to expand our outreach in the state, and our work is completely online which is why we can help individuals across the entire country."

Urbina said while there are services that do similar things in our state, he said an increase in demand puts them in a unique position to help.

"A lot of those orgs reach capacity because they're helping individuals in person," he said. "What we're trying to do is partner with these organizations and many of them are referring individuals to immigrationhelp.org once they reach capacity."

And right now-- despite the fact DACA recipients or Dreamers-- don't have a clear path to citizenship, Urbina said at least achieving DACA status if they are eligible is important for so many reasons.

"We want to make sure that individuals who are eligible are able to get the protection at the moment that are available to them," he said. "So that they have less fear of being deported and being taken away from their families. It's important to bring up that these individuals are brought over at a very young age so the U.S. is home for most of them. Most of them don't remember their country of origin so we want to make sure they can stay here and also work."

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