WU Law clinic accepts DACA renewals

Emily Unruh

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Sept. 5, 2017 that the Trump administration had ended the Obama era program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This led to thousands of children and young adults searching for an alternative that would allow them to stay in the United States, which is, for many, the only country they have ever lived in. Part of that process requires the renewal of DACA cases, which is crucial for recipients now that the program has ended.

For students like Kelvin Lopez, a Wichita State senior pre-law student, DACA has been a source of hope and the promise of a future.

Lopez’s experience with DACA began in 2012, when he was a junior in high school and President Obama introduced the program for the first time.

“As a junior, I was given hope for my future and that hope continued until our current president said we would end [DACA],” Lopez said.

Lopez said that it was hard when the program was ended because, “you get hope, and then it gets taken away from you and you wonder, are you even allowed to have hope?”

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Lopez was among many of the nearly 800,000 DACA recipients who worked multiple jobs in order to prepare for college. A normal day for Lopez included waking at 7 a.m., class until 11:45 a.m., and then working a mix of three jobs until 2 a.m., catch about 4 hours of sleep and start all over again.

“Going to work, and paying my way through college pushed me harder than other people to follow my dreams,” Lopez said.

Starting immediately, the Washburn Law Clinic is accepting DACA renewal cases for students like Lopez. Sarah Balderas, a Washburn law intern, said that Washburn Law decided to offer this service because they try to be responsive to community needs.

“Because of the rapidly changing state of DACA, there is a great need for those who may qualify to speak with an attorney or a legal intern.” Balderas said.

The clinic will follow up with individuals who call (785) 679-1191 and set up an appointment to assess whether is eligible to request a DACA renewal and complete the application.

Lopez said that the support of universities through programs like the Washburn Law Clinic is very important for DACA students.

“I know a bunch of students in the program [DACA] who go to different colleges throughout the state and although they might not speak up about it, they appreciate what the universities do to help them,” Lopez said.

Balderas said that it is important that DACA recipients know that, “there is currently no deadline for renewals. However, renewal requests are being accepted right now due to a federal court order that could be overburdened by an appellate court at any moment.”

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The Clinic encourages DACA recipients to call “sooner rather than later.”

“It is also important to know that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services is not accepting DACA requests from those who have never had DACA…only those who have been granted DACA status in the past,” Balderas said.

DACA is a form of work authorization, and the current form of the program contains no pathway to citizenship. DACA recipients do however pay taxes. Lopez explained that since the program ended, he has been traveling to and from Washington DC to lobby for the Dream Act.

The Dream Act is an option to replace DACA, which would protect DACA recipients.

The Washburn Law Clinic’s involvement in DACA renewal benefits DACA recipients as well as law students working the cases.

“[The law students] would be given a chance to work effectively under a time pressure, gain experience interacting with clients and the opportunity to become more knowledgeable about immigration law,” says Balderas. “What is also beneficial for both [parties] is that when we are determining whether someone is eligible for renewal or not, we also have a chance to see if there are any other options available to an individual regarding his or her status.”

Lopez urges students to call their legislators and tell them we want a clean Dream Act. He also says that it is important that universities show their defense of the DACA students.

“Other people, as students should advocate to their University,” Lopez said. “At least, issue a statement of support.”

The Washburn Law Clinic is located on the North side of the Washburn Law School and is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.