Immigrant Hope provides assistance with renewals
The Supreme Court could make a ruling on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act any day now, so the nonprofit organization Immigrant Hope – Wyoming/Idaho is calling on all local DACA recipients to renew their status while the program is still in limbo, and paying for those applications when necessary.
DACA enables young undocumented people who entered the country before they had autonomy to work legally and receive protection from deportation. DACA recipients pay almost $500 every two years for that privilege.
Victor resident Andy Bocardo is a 22-year-old student at the University of Idaho. He has worked for Driggs-based Carson Concrete since he was 16 and aspires to become an architect. Bocardo was three months old when he was brought to the US. He applied for DACA as soon as he was eligible.
DACA recipients, or Dreamers, have to have been under 16 when they entered the country and must have lived here continuously since 2007. They must be enrolled in or graduated from high school or college and have no criminal history. Bocardo said the application, which includes fingerprinting, was time-consuming and nerve-wracking, especially for a teenager.
“Even to this day, each time I have renewed I get nervous, going over the application multiple times just to make sure there are not any mistakes,” he said.
Because the president announced he was terminating DACA in 2017, young adults can no longer apply to enter the program, but they can continue to renew. Bocardo renewed last year, meaning he’s protected at least until 2021, but he’s concerned that if the Supreme Court allows DACA to be eliminated, he won’t be able to continue his education or work at an architecture firm, or legally hold any job for that matter. He described the uncertainty about his future as terrifying.
Off the top of her head, Immigrant Hope director Lori McCune can name many valley residents like Bocardo who are Dreamers, young people who work as graphic designers, restaurant or property managers, or who are employed at the hospital, grocery stores, and schools.
“Really, they’re throughout our community, and that’s not to mention the people who live here and drive to Jackson to work,” she said.
As of Dec. 2019 there were 2,810 active DACA recipients in Idaho, and according to the Center for American Progress, approximately 1,600 of them are essential workers in the fields of health care, education, and food production.
“By having DACA, many individuals have been able to give back to their respective communities,” Bocardo said. “If DACA were to be repealed it would not benefit the US in any way. Instead it could hinder it by taking the jobs of many taxpaying DACA holders. Many DACA holders have pursued a post-secondary education and if repealed all that sacrifice will be for nothing.”
Through Immigrant Hope, McCune and accredited volunteers provide free or affordable legal advice and paperwork assistance for immigrants seeking legal status. Because they want as many Dreamers as possible to renew before the possible termination of the program, Immigrant Hope is funding applications for locals, many of whom have been laid off because of the pandemic and might not be able to afford the $495 fee.
“Some kids say, ‘I’m working, I’m doing okay, I’ll pay my own fee.’ But there are a lot of kids who need help. We’re so committed to doing this, we’ll pull the money out of our own pockets if we have to. We’ll do what we can to get these kids renewed,” McCune said.