SAN JUAN, December 20 - Three free clinics are to be held in the Rio Grande Valley next month for undocumented high school and college students who may qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
The clinics being organized by the University of Texas School of Law and the Texas Civil Rights Project. They believe there is an unmet need in the Valley for free help with DACA petitions.
The dates and venues are:
• Monday, Jan. 7, IDEA College Preparatory San Juan (in the cafeteria), 600 E. Sioux, San Juan, Texas, 4 p.m.-8 p.m.
• Tuesday, Jan. 8, IDEA College Preparatory Mission (in the cafeteria), 1600 S. Schuerbach Road, Mission, Texas, 4 p.m.-8 p.m.
• Thursday, Jan. 10, The University of Texas at Brownsville, 80 Fort Brown, University Boulevard Classroom Building (on W. University Blvd.), Rm. 2112, Brownsville, Texas, 4 p.m.-8 p.m.
The clinics will have volunteer attorneys from Austin and the Valley to help high school and college students complete applications and compile documents to file with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Students can schedule appointments ahead of time by contacting the UT Law Pro Bono Program at 512-232-2990 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Walk-ins will also be accepted at these clinics on a first-come, first served basis.
The Deferred Action program was announced by President Barack Obama in August. It provides temporary legal status to eligible immigrants who came to the United States as children. It also allows them to work in the United States for a period of two years.
Barbara Hines is co-director of the University of Texas School of Law Immigration Clinic and one of the top immigration attorneys in the United States. She has received numerous awards for her work including the 1992 American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Jack Wasserman Award for Excellence in Litigation; the 1993 AILA Texas Chapter Litigation Award; the 2002 Texas Law Fellowships Excellence in Public Interest Award; the 2007 AILA Elmer Fried Excellence in Teaching Award; the 2009 MALDEF Excellence in Legal Services Award; and the 2010 National Lawyer's Guild Carol King Award. In 2000, she was named one of the 100 best lawyers in the state by the Texas Lawyer publication.
“The DACA program allows undocumented students to come out of the shadows and contribute to our state and our community,” Hines said. “The DACA clinics in the Valley will provide essential legal assistance to help applicants navigate the immigration system and file their applications.”
Tina Fernandez, director of the UT Law Pro Bono Program, said the three Valley clinics are the outgrowth of clinics the Law School organized in Austin.
After the Obama administration launched the DACA program, the UT Law Pro Bono Program teamed with the Law School’s Immigration Clinic to organize seven weekend clinics in the fall. Through the effort, approximately 100 law students and 70 volunteer attorneys assisted nearly 400 high school and college students prepare petitions for DACA status. The Law School plans more clinics in Austin in the spring.
“We suspect there is an unmet need in the Valley for free help with DACA petitions,” Fernandez said. “We hope that other organizations will use the resources the Law School has developed to replicate our clinic model. We’ve had the honor of sharing our materials with various organizations across the country and hope to continue to build capacity for this work.”
Fernandez said students who would like assistance completing their DACA applications should bring as many of the following documents as possible to the clinic:
A. Proof of Identity: Many applicants are using a passport or a birth certificate and a photo ID (e.g. school ID with a photo).
B. Proof applicant came to the United States before the age of 16:
This can include school or medical records. Also, any records from a religious entity (such as baptismal records) can serve as proof.
C. Proof applicant was physically present in the United States as of June 15, 2012 and has resided in the United States since June 15, 2007. Fernandez said school records, rent receipts, or utility bills, among other things, may be submitted. The documents should state the applicant’s name, contain an address or other proof that the applicant was present in the U.S. and contain a date. In a best-case scenario, Fernandez said, applicants will have a document that shows presence for every month present in the U.S. since June 15, 2007. There should not be any significant gaps regarding an applicant’s physical presence in the U.S. Applicants must also provide a list of addresses for everywhere he or she has lived in the U.S., Fernandez said.
D. Proof applicant is currently in school, has graduated from high school, or has obtained a general educational development certificate (GED) or proof applicant is an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States.
E: Criminal Records: If an applicant has ever been arrested, charged, or convicted, he or she should bring copies of all criminal records, which can be obtained from the court where the applicant was arrested, or the certified disposition record from every county the applicant has lived in (and/or been arrested in), in the U.S. This includes juvenile offenses.
A comprehensive list of the documents needed and more information about the clinics is available at utlawprobono.org/daca or by contacting the UT Law Pro Bono Program at 512-232-2990 or at email@example.com.