Fee hikes hinder plan

By Roxana Amparo, Editor-in-Chief

The price for the paperwork to exempt undocumented individuals from deportation and issue a two-year work permit has increased from $465 to $495, as of Jan 23.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was a program passed as part of one of former President Barack Obama’s executive actions. It allows individuals who entered the U.S. before their 16th birthday and before June 2007 to qualify for DACA.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will cover the increase in fees by raising DACA related costs 21 percent following Congress’ refusal to approve continued funding.

Before the increase, the application (Form 1-765) was $380 and is now $410, and the $80 fee for biometrics and photo is now $85.

But under President Donald Trump’s leadership the (DACA), which has benefited more than 740,000 people since 2007, is in danger of removal.

Contra Costa College counselor Norma Valdez-Jimenez said, “As things stand today, I think students have to be extremely cautious. Legal experts have been saying that individuals can renew, but are not recommending folks to apply for the first time. With all of the executive orders being signed this week, we would be fools to think that the new administration is not going to swiftly take some action on DACA. We will know soon.”

Valdez-Jimenez said when students ask her about renewing or applying for DACA, she prefers not to give advice but instead refers them to a reliable legal source.

Certified Immigration Law Specialist Renzo Manay said, “It’s really hard to say right now because it can go both ways. I am advising people who have DACA and are eligible to renew, to just go ahead and renew. Because the only thing is that you can probably lose is the money.”

While every undocumented person’s situation and circumstance might be different, attorneys were advising their clients to renew DACA before Trump took office.

“What if, come January, they say, well we are going to grandfather (in) everyone who has applied, then everyone else who (applies after that), too bad,” Manay said.

Although it is not clear what Trump plans to do with DACA, during an interview on ABC News on Jan. 25, he said DREAMers, a term referring to individuals who qualify for the Dream Act, should not worry. He said he and his cabinet will come up with policies regarding immigrants during the next four years.

Catholic Charities of the East Bay’s Immigration Legal Assistant Mayra Valdes said one of the biggest concerns for applicants is whether they will get deported or if they will lose their two-year work permit.

“Immigration doesn’t have the capacity to deport everyone,” she said.

Manay said there is a higher risk for first-time applicants because they’ll have to provide personal information to immigration. Although it is advised to move forward with renewing, it is not recommended for first-time applicants.

Manay said it doesn’t mean all immigration relief is going away under Trump’s presidency.

“We don’t even know if it’s going to change, to be honest. We can only anticipate the worst. And that is something that I go over with a lot of my clients because sometimes they are able to fix their status,” he said.

Valdes said, “You shouldn’t be scared of what Trump decided. Those are opportunities that we have out there. This is something that a lot of people fight for.”

Catholic Charities of the East Bay, a nonprofit organization located at 217 Harbor Way in Richmond, is offering their services to help DACA applicants with their application. Valdes said over 200 applications were filed just in the months of December.

“We have a high demand,” she said. Valdes said they have $40 DACA consultations, by appointment only, every Tuesday from 1 to 4 p.m.