ORLANDO, Fla. – On the ninth anniversary of the creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA, Vice President Kamala Harris met with a group of “dreamers” to host a roundtable discussion.
Currently, a Texas federal judge is working to strike the program down following a Supreme Court ruling that said the program should stand. In September 2017, the Trump administration announced a plan to phase out DACA, triggering multiple lawsuits.
“We have many kids that are in high school 15 years or older probably 18 (or) 19 and they want to work and they can apply now, something that they were not able to do since September 2017,” Milena Portillo of Portillo Immigration Law said.
After three years, the Trump administration was ordered in December 2020 to reinstate the program that shields young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation.
“We have seen many new applicants have been able to now apply for the program,” Portillo said. “Let’s remember that DACA kids or DACA applicants most of them they did not know, they didn’t have a say in coming to the U.S.”
Portillo said she’s had 15 new cases of DACA applicants and several phone calls since the program was fully reinstated. Officials with the nonprofit organization ImmigrationHelp.org also said they’ve seen an uptick in the number of people contacting them for assistance.
“We have seen there definitely has been an increase in the number of individuals visiting our site in search for DACA assistance,” Fernando Urbina of ImmigrationHelp.org said.
Urbina added that sometimes the legal fees are costly when filing immigration forms making it difficult for some applicants.
“Immigration attorneys can charge up to thousands of dollars so our ultimate goal is to help especially low-income families bypass this very high cost,” Urbina said.
Sammy Arroyo is currently getting help from the organization to obtain his permanent resident card.
“An attorney was trying to charge me a thousand dollars to fill in the paperwork so it was during the pandemic and I didn’t have that,” said Arroyo, who arrived at 11 years old from Colombia.
Founded in 2019 by a group of Harvard University students and an attorney Immigrationhelp.org assists applicants to file their immigration forms free of charge.
“These individuals are more than capable of filling out those forms on their own but if they miss a question or fill out a question incorrectly this significantly increases the likelihood of their application being rejected,” Urbina said.
Data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services showed as of December 31st, 2020, there are 636,390 active DACA recipients and in Florida, there are 24,530 recipients known as “dreamers.”
“The opportunity of having a work authorization and a driver’s license is huge to them,” Portillo said. " They can now apply for the advanced parole and it is based on humanitarian purposes. It can be also for education or to visit family outside the country.”