Immigration Clinic Helps DACA Students Renew Status

Posted Mon, 10/16/2017 - 10:20

A recent two-day legal clinic held by the USF School of Law Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic assisted dozens of young adult immigrants renew their protected status through DACA, which offers protection from deportation to undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children.

The DACA clinic was put together on short notice last month immediately after President Trump announced the program would end in six months, but the work accomplished over those two days was an extension of the work USF law students do day in and day out as part of the Immigration and Deportation Defense Clinic. Established in 2015, the clinic represents primarily unaccompanied immigrant children and women with children who have arrived at the southern border.

Each semester, up to 15 law students represent clients in all stages of immigration proceedings at the asylum office, the immigration courts, and the offices of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“We are blessed with a group of students who are very social justice minded and this service fits right in with what many of them want to do,” said Professor Bill Ong Hing, director of the clinic. “Given the change in atmosphere today surrounding immigration, there is a big interest in immigration law. This clinic helps provide a good service in a time of need.”

The clinic receives funding from the State of California, the City of San Francisco, and a grant from the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, helping it take on about 150 cases per year. Each student handles between three or four at a time under the direction of Hing and Supervising Attorney Jacqueline Brown Scott.

Throughout, Hing said, the clinic is persistent in its advocacy. “We just won’t give up on cases and will pursue all avenues possible to help people remain here lawfully.” That determination has led to successful outcomes for the clinic’s clients. While some clients have received interim denials, there have been no deportation orders.

As immigration news has dominated headlines over the past year, the clinic’s caseload has not risen dramatically but its sense of responsibility has. The clinic now regularly gives “Know Your Rights” trainings to immigrant groups in direct response to immigrants’ fears brought about by the election. The clinic also is working with a pediatrician and psychologist to develop age-appropriate presentations for immigrant children, many of whom attend the rights presentations with their parents.

The recent DACA clinic also was in response to the political environment. The Jewish Community Center of San Francisco donated space for the clinic to be held and various donations covered the $495 filing fee each DACA participant is responsible to pay the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Among those attending the clinic was Haran, a 22-year-old who drove from Salinas to get help renewing his DACA status for an additional two years. Just three or four years old when he was brought to the United States from Mexico, Haran grew up in Southern California and has no recollection of Mexico. He now works as an account manager for a trucking company and uses the money to help support his mother. “I’m on the hook for paying for all of this legal work myself,” Haran said. “Working with the clinic allowed me to use that money to help my family.”

Yazmín Preciado-Medina 2L, who worked both days at the DACA clinic, said the immigration clinic has been the part of her legal education that has excited her the most, combining theoretical concepts from class with hands-on experience. It’s also a highly personal field for Preciado-Medina — she was brought to the United States when she was very young.

“I can relate to the experiences of so-called newcomers. I have shared their struggles of adjusting and navigating their new lives,” said Preciado-Medina, who plans to work in immigration law. “And having grown up in the U.S., I have also learned about how complex the topic of immigration is and how desperately it needs drastic changes. The struggle for dignity and justice that people who are searching for a better future deserve, must continue. I want to contribute my grain of sand to improving society. The immigration clinic allows me to work with clients so together we begin having that impact.”