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Free clinics to help young immigrants pursue deferred action

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Posted: Sunday, December 30, 2012 5:59 pm

The effort to help qualifying undocumented youths remain in the country with the ability to legally work will continue with several free clinics in the Rio Grande Valley next week.

A group of 42 University of Texas at Austin law students and faculty will join the University of Texas-Pan American’s Minority Affairs Council (MAC) in hosting three clinics here. Immigrants who came to the U.S. as young children are given temporary legal status and a work visa for the next two years if approved under the federal government’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, process.

It is not a path to citizenship, however.

The clinics will run from 4 to 8 p.m. The first is set for Jan. 7 in the cafeteria at the IDEA College Preparatory San Juan campus, at 600 E. Sioux. The second is Jan. 8 in the cafeteria at the IDEA College Preparatory Mission campus, at 1600 S. Schuerbach Road.

A Jan. 10 clinic will be hosted at the University of Texas at Brownsville campus in the University Boulevard Classroom Building, room 2112.

The need for help with DACA is still great in the Valley, said Candidio Renteria, MAC president.

“We know that there are students out there who qualify for this program, but may not have the money to apply or find legal services to be able to apply.”

As of mid-December, more than 57,500 Texas youths had submitted an application for the federal government’s DACA process since it began this August.

Clinic volunteers will help students complete forms and gather documents in order to submit their DACA application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

In December, clinic volunteers visited the Valley and screened students for the DACA process at an information session. Those students will be given priority at the January clinics.

Renteria said 69 people attended the session in Edinburg and 60 of them met DACA qualifications.

Walk-ins may also attend the upcoming clinics with the appropriate paperwork if they are ready to apply, but feel they need guidance, he said.

It is estimated UTPA and South Texas College have about 600 students each who are eligible under the program, Renteria said.

“Just in the high schools that we’ve talked to alone, there’s an average of 50 to 100 students who might qualify for this program,” he said.

The UT School of Law Pro Bono Program and the Texas Civil Rights Project also worked to organize the clinics.

Law student volunteers will also work with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid and the South Texas Civil Rights Project while in the Valley. They will run clinics to help low-income property owners draft wills under the supervision of local attorneys with the organizations. They’ll also help women file immigration petitions for legal residency under the Violence Against Women Act and work with South Texas ProBAR to help immigrant detainees.

For more information call Renteria at (956) 241-6006. Call (512) 232-2990 or email probono@law.utexas.edu to help determine DACA eligibility.

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Jacqueline Armendariz covers law enforcement, courts and general assignments for The Monitor. She can be reached at jarmendariz@themonitor.com and (956) 683-4434.

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