Congress and the president apparently agree that they will do something at some point to help the children of immigrants who are residing here under the temporary grace of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
The Boise lawyer is waiving his fees and helping raise awareness about this week’s DACA deadline. The deadline is crucial: Current DACA recipients have until Thursday, Oct. 5, to get their applications to the government if they want a two-year renewal. It’s the last and only chance DACA recipients will have unless and until Congress and the president act.
When President Donald Trump’s administration announced discontinuation of the program on Sept. 5, it agreed to let recipients whose DACA status expires between Sept. 5 and March 5, 2018, file for one last renewal. But those renewal papers must be in the hands of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services by Thursday. So that really means the Dreamers need to have their renewal in the next-day mail Oct. 4.
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“We work a lot with the dreamers, and we’ve seen the effect of the short deadline on them,” said Peterson, who graduated from Concordia University Law School in 2016 and joined the Boise law practice of Kimberley Schaefer.
The renewal application fee is $495 and legal fees can range as high as $1,000 (for new applicants). That’s a lot of money for a young Dreamer to come up with on short notice, said Peterson.
Not only is Peterson and his firm waiving their fees, they can help Dreamers find donors and nonprofits that are helping pay the filing fee. So it’s possible Dreamers can renew at no cost.
Why is he doing it?
“We’ve seen the quality of people that they are, and we just felt that it’s hard to put this burden on them,” said Peterson. “Helping these kids at least have peace of mind for the next two years while Congress does whatever they are going to do, it’s a huge burden off their shoulders.”
DACA was a temporary Obama presidential order, a means to try to address one of the most heart-wrenching immigration issues: children, often very young, brought by parents to the U.S. illegally. Many have grown up here and know America as their only home, but they are not here legally and are subject to deportation — to countries where they might have little or no connection, family or even language skills.
So the plight of the nation’s 800,000 Dreamers resonates even with people who have little patience or sympathy for others who come to this country without legal documentation. And there’s some reason to think they’ll ultimately be taken care of. After Trump’s announcement, the president signaled that he wants to do right by the Dreamers and has talked of a bipartisan bill to address their plight.
But regardless of sympathy or signals from Washington, this week’s hard deadline is a hard reality.
“The important thing is the deadline, and that (the application) has to be in the government’s hands,” said Elena Langan, dean of the Concordia University Law School. “So they have to act now.”
There are other nonprofits in the Valley helping Idaho’s 3,100 Dreamers this week, and Concordia is offering help to Peterson and Schaefer if they need it. “We have offered to have students available, depending on the volume of work, to help with the processing of paperwork,” Langan said.
Peterson himself got his start in immigration law as a Concordia student volunteering with Schaefer’s firm. The young lawyer doesn’t know what demand to expect from potential DACA last-minute filers.
“We kept our calendar open, we’re answering the phones and the plan is to work with the school to have students available,” he said. “We’ll call and say ‘We’ve got a bunch of people, come on over and bring your laptops.’ ”
For DACA help or info
Call Scott Peterson at 208-810-4850 or visit visacaseprep.com.