While President Trump is led astray by Stephen Miller on immigration and facing a huge amount of blame for the lack of progress on a solution for Dreamers, I’ve gotten real hope from the way that ordinary Americans are living their values by supporting these young people. Right now, there is a potentially short window of opportunity for DACA recipients to renew their DACA, thanks to a federal court decision to allow renewals to continue while the lawsuit about DACA’s legality wages on. While lawyers are helping DACA recipients with legal questions regarding the applications, people in communities across the country are stepping up to help Dreamers with the costs of applying.
It all started on January 16, 2018, when I did an interview on Minnesota Public Radio and briefly mentioned that one of the hardships for DACA recipients right now was coming up with the $495 filing fee. Much to my surprise, a woman called me later that day and said she had heard my interview and wanted to pay for a client’s DACA filing fee. I gratefully accepted and my client wrote up a thank you note; she was now going to be able to send in her renewal application. Though the Trump administration has appealed the federal court ruling allowing applicants to renew, the appeal process could take some time. That means those renewing DACA can, and should, try to strike while the iron is hot, so to speak.
I was so thrilled by the donation that I posted (with permission) my client’s thank you note on Twitter and from there, others quickly offered donations as well. In a week and a half, we have raised more than $23,000 to pay DACA filing fees for Minnesotans. A large portion of these non-tax-deductible contributions were smaller donations raised from the social media call put out on Twitter. Minnesotans are moved by the emotional and financial toll that all of the uncertainty relating to the DACA program and the Dream Act has created for our friends and neighbors with DACA. When given a concrete way to help, they leapt at the chance.
The vast majority of Americans support a path to permanent immigration status for Dreamers. The bipartisan Dream Act is not controversial for voters. DACA recipients are our neighbors, our faith leaders, our friends, and our family. They are teaching kids, nursing patients, and are interwoven into the fabric of our society. The donors to our DACA filing fee drive know that these recipients are as American as anyone else but for lack of papers, and the donors want to help them get over that last hurdle, even if only temporarily.
The Trump administration has created an unnecessary crisis for DACA recipients. They are in danger of losing their work permits (and their jobs), their driver’s licenses, and their protection from deportation. The DACA program was rescinded despite the humanitarian cost and the turmoil it would create. While ordinary Minnesotans are stepping up as a stopgap, and others throughout the country are doing the same through donations big and small, there is a solution that money can’t buy. It is up to Congress to lead on this issue and pass a clean Dream Act now.
** Important note for attorneys: when a third party pays either legal fees or filing fees for a client, the lawyer should consult their state bar ethics rules and obtain agreement from each client to the extent required by the rules.