Advocacy groups hold presentations on DACA as deadline for renewals looms

McALLEN — There are only 11 days left for DACA recipients to submit renewal applications for those whose legal status set to expire on or before March 5.

Nearly three weeks after U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions announced that the federal program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — which currently shields more than 800,000 undocumented people who were brought here as children across the country from deportation, would be phased out, local advocacy groups continue to work together to hold information sessions for those affected by the program’s end.

Last week, members of La Union Del Pueblo Entero, a local immigrant advocacy group, held information sessions at the two University of Texas Rio Grande Valley campuses, in an effort to make clear to DACA recipients, and those who are not recipients of the program, about what they need to do before the Oct. 5 deadline.

During a two-day campaign, social services providers, along with members of LUPE will hold info-sessions regarding DACA and its looming deadline at several South Texas College campuses throughout the Rio Grande Valley, including in Starr County.

Ciara Ayala, a special projects and outreach coordinator with LUPE, said the presentations are a direct response to Sessions’ Sept. 5 announcement, and are designed to clear up questions DACA recipients may have as it relates to the program.

“If you have DACA, and (it) expires between Sept. 5, 2017, and March 5, you’re eligible to renew your (application) now, if you’re DACA expires outside of those dates, you’re not eligible to renew,” Ayala said. “…That’s why we’re putting so much emphasis and we’re trying to get the word out to as many people as possible.”

Ayala, who has been with the organization for nearly two years and attended some of the presentations held last week, said the presentations are primarily a summary of the program’s history, its benefits and how recipients and non-recipients can proceed as the program is phased out.

“At these presentations there’s a lot of confusion first off, about what the DACA program is, what Sessions’ announcement means, so we spend a lot of time just telling people general information about the (federal) program,” Ayala said.

The coordinator said that even for those not eligible for the program, there’s a ‘know your rights,’ portion of the presentation, that focuses on what rights undocumented people in the community should be aware of — followed by a Q&A portion at the end.

The group’s dissemination of information regarding DACA comes at a hectic time, and amid the detainment of nine DACA recipients a week after the program’s end was announced.

On Monday, Sept. 11, nine DACA recipients, six men and three women, were separately detained by U.S. Border and Customs officers at the Falfurrias checkpoint for more than 8 hours, as part of a new policy to detain and “substantiate,” the status of DACA recipients.

The group’s detention was met with outrage from local and national advocacy groups alike.

Ayala said in her conversations with recipients and other undocumented members of the community, that the state’s attack on them through different legislation has left them in fear.

“There is a sense, and there has been, even before the DACA announcement was made, of fear,” Ayala said. “..That has been because of a lot of policy changes, not only DACA, but SB4 — anti-immigrant policies that are being implemented, are creating a culture of fear in our communities… none of this has been a positive change in our community.”

Ayala said the best way to fight the fear that has gripped the undocumented community is to stay informed about what’s happening.

“I think the most important thing right now is to be educated on what exactly is happening as far as DACA is concerned, and what your rights are,” Ayala said. “I personally believe that one of the biggest tools to fight fear is knowledge — we encourage people to come down, invite your friends, parents, and find out what your options are moving forward.”

Times, locations of presentations:

Monday, Sept. 25 – 6 p.m. Pecan Campus

Location: Building D Room 102 (Auditorium)

Tuesday, Sept. 26 – 5 p.m. Starr County Campus

Location: Building E Room 1.606 (Auditorium)

Tuesday Sept. 26 – 6:30pm, Mid Valley Campus

Location: Building G Room 191 (Auditorium)

Should there be any questions, please feel free to contact Mr. Matthew S. Hebbard, Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management via email at mshebbar@southtexascollege.edu or at 956-872-2147.