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Multicultural Coalition offering free clinic for DACA work permits

Multicultural Coalition offering free clinic for DACA work permits

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Grand Island's Multicultural Coalition will provide a clinic Thursday, Oct. 15, to help DACA recipients with renewal applications and provide their filing fees and immigration legal fees. (Independent/Brandon Summers)

Up to 40 DACA recipients could have their future changed next week.

Those who need to have their work permits renewed can find help with Multicultural Coalition’s DACA renewal clinic on Thursday.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program provides work permits for the children of parents who brought them into country without authorization or whose authorization has expired.

MCC has received two grants to provide the $495 filing fee with U.S. Immigration Services for up to 40 participants.

The fee used to provide for two years of work authorization, but that has been reduced to only one year, MCC Executive Director Audrey Lutz said.

“In essence, (that fee) has been doubled,” she said. “During a pandemic, people may have been affected financially. If they don’t have work authorization to get that money, you’re in a ‘Catch-22’ situation.”

She added, “This grant funding is really to provide people a pathway toward employment.”

MCC also will not be charging immigration legal fees as part of Thursday’s clinic.

“We’re covering the fee for filing the application, and we’re paying for passport pictures, too, which are a part of the application,” Lutz said.

A CARES Act Response Grant, via the U.S. Department Health & Human Services, will provide for 20 people to apply, and a grant from the Weitz Family Foundation of Omaha will provide for another 20 people, as well as the immigration legal fees.

There are several openings left for Thursday’s clinic.

The process is simple: Documentation is copied, consultation is given on immigration legal history, forms are completed and photos taken.

The completed applications are then sent off via mail.

“The only people who can file these immigration applications are immigration attorneys or people who are accredited by the (U.S.) Department of Justice to practice immigration law,” Lutz said. “We have four people in our office who are actively preparing applications.”

Anyone interested must call Multicultural Coalition in advance for a screening at 308-385-5242.

“There may be things in their personal history that make them ineligible,” Lutz said.

At previous DACA clinics, about 67% of participants have come from outside Grand Island.

“That just speaks to the need, that the need is real in central Nebraska for immigration legal services,” Lutz said.

Some DACA recipients face obstacles in renewing their work permits.

They may not have their immigration history with them, or copies of all their documents.

Money is often the greatest obstacle, said MCC communications director Joseline Reyna.

“It was every two years, but even then that time goes by fast, and you have a pandemic, so now they have to come up with that money,” she said.

Not knowing where to go to get a DACA permit renewed is also an obstacle, Reyna said.

“By coming to us, we’re helping them get over that barrier,” she said. “Sometimes, people will go to people who are not authorized to practice immigration and that can mess up their whole case if something is filed wrong or incorrectly.”

While DACA recipients are not eligible to become citizens, they are community members who offer many benefits to their community.

“They’re able to work,” Reyna said. “They’re able to go to local restaurants and make purchases.

“DACA recipients are schoolteachers and now, with the pandemic, a lot of them are on the front lines as nurses, doctors. That’s why it’s important to help them renew their work permits because then we have people at the grocery stores and the hospitals having those jobs, and keeping the community going.”

Since joining the national program Nebraska has granted DACA status to 3,635 people who have contributed greatly to the state’s economy, Lutz said.

“These young people have chosen to stay and work in Nebraska,” she said.

Lutz described the DACA recipients she has known as “some of the most accomplished young people I’ve had the pleasure of working with.”

“They have such a high standard of good moral character,” she said. “From my caseload, these individuals hold leadership positions in our community. They’re teachers, attorneys, medical professionals.”

For more information, visit the Multicultural Coalition website at mcofgi.org, or contact the office directly at 325 W. Fourth St., Grand Island, or by calling 308-385-5242.

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