Application costs create a barrier for some Arkansas immigrants.
New applications are again being accepted for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program, but those applications come with a $495 filing fee.
To help applicants in need of financial assistance, community organizer Irvin Camacho has launched a GoFundMe fundraiser and says having DACA can be a life changer.
“Once someone is able to get their DACA permit, they’re going to be able to legally have a job, they’re going to be able to get a driver’s license, they’re going to be able to apply for in-state tuition,” he says.
Established in June 2012, DACA gives undocumented people who were brought to the United States as children and meet several guidelines the ability to stay and work in the country legally. In June, the Supreme Court ruled against the Trump administration’s effort to end the program.
Earlier this month, a federal judge ruled DACA must be fully reinstated. However, the filing fee can be a barrier for people who qualify for the program, especially when they must reapply for every two years.
“I would be able to afford it right now, but in the past when I’ve had a job where I was living paycheck to paycheck, I couldn’t afford to just pay $495 out of nowhere,” Camacho says.
The financial burden can be especially difficult for first-time applicants who perhaps haven’t been able to get a job because of their immigration status.
“Where are they going to get those funds from? Their parents are working hard to put food on the table and to be able to just assist them, but a person who’s applying for the first time probably didn’t have a job before, so it’s tough,” Camacho says.
The idea for the fundraiser came from a friend who gave Camacho money and asked him to use it to do something in the community. Camacho suggested his friend help fundraise for DACA fees and within a few hours, he had about $2,000.
Through social media, Camacho requested suggestions for people who could benefit from the funds. People responded by offering to donate more money, so he set up a fundraiser on GoFundMe.
The goal is to raise $10,000 by Dec. 20. That plus the original $2,000 would cover fees for 24 applicants. Camacho has already received more than 20 requests for assistance and says he’ll prioritize Arkansans applicants. There were 4,480 active DACA recipients in the state as of March 31, according to estimates from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Camacho wants to be transparent with the fundraising effort and says the applications will be reviewed by a group of people including himself, his wife and a representative from the immigrant rights organization Equipo de Defensa al Inmigrante.
“Once we have chosen the people, we’re going to get money orders for $495 that are going to be written to USCIS, that way the money for sure is used for DACA,” he says.
Camacho would like to distribute funds around Christmastime if possible.
“Just to be able to give these to people on Christmas Eve, which is the 24th, I think that’d be special,” he says.
Whatever money is left, Camacho says it will be put back into the community. He’s working with Equipo de Defensa al Inmigrante to host a free DACA clinic, so any leftover funds would likely support that effort.
The plan is to host the event at the Civic Center in Springdale where there would be plenty of space to practice social distancing. Legal volunteers will be present to help people fill out their applications. The free clinic is one more way to keep finances from being a barrier to applying for DACA.
“We were able to supply them with the DACA application fee and then they can save themselves all the attorney fees they would pay by coming to our free DACA clinic where we’ll have attorneys doing pro bono work,” Camacho says.
There are a lot of people who need help, he says, and this fundraiser could make a big difference in the lives of at least 24 people.
“I think as a community we can do that, we have the resources” Camacho says. “Now it’s up to the people to do that.”