Tens of thousands of DACA recipients are experiencing increased levels of emotional distress during the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials with the Nevada System of Higher Education are extending their support by debunking misinformation during a time when recipients nervously await the Supreme Court’s decision on whether or not to rescind the immigration policy.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, is a United States immigration policy that grants undocumented children who were brought to the U.S. at a young age an opportunity to obtain a renewable two-year work permit and protection from deportation.
The program established under the Obama administration in 2012 was suspended by the Trump administration in 2017.
The Supreme Court will decide whether or not the program will continue and is expected to make a decision between April and June.
The NSHE All Access Committee held a virtual town hall, which 100 people attended. It was an opportunity to provide resources and answer questions from students who are undocumented, recipients of DACA and other immigration statuses.
Amey Evaluna with Nevada State College led the conversation urging students to renew their DACA immediately, before the Supreme Court's decision. All of the college representatives stressed that current DACA holders should prepare in case the program was to end.
“While I don’t want to prognosticate or make any kind of prediction, we do believe that the Supreme Court is leaning towards upholding the suspension of the DACA program, which means that once DACA is suspended, individuals will not be able to renew their DACA status,” said Michael Shamoon, an attorney at the UNLV Immigration Clinic.
Shamoon said it's vital for DACA recipients to renew their application, even if their status expires in two weeks or in one year.
By renewing the DACA application before the Supreme Court's decision, the recipient will have the opportunity to be granted another two years, no matter the outcome of the court.
Due to the pandemic, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is using the same biometrics from past applications when recipients file to renew their DACA status. USCIS also requires two passport-like photos taken within 30 days of filing for renewal.
NSHE representatives suggest taking the photos at home and sending the photos to a local CVS pharmacy or Walgreens to print.
Shamoon is offering free application consultations over the phone and via zoom video, but there are still a few barriers, including the $485 application fee.
TheDream.US is a college access organization that surveyed nearly 1,600 DACA scholars. The survey found 80% of them have suffered temporary job loss, reduced work hours and/or were terminated because of the current pandemic.
Evaluna said while the renewal application fee is still required, each NSHE institution has an emergency fund. Those funds are available to DACA students and may apply to obtain financial relief for food or bills in the home.
“I hope that those emergency funds can help lift the burden in your household so that you have the funds you need to renew and if any student is ready to renew but the money is what is stopping them, absolutely reach out to the contact of your college,” Evaluna said.
Any student who graduates from a Nevada high school is immediately granted in-state tuition, no matter their immigration status, making Nevada a more DACA-friendly location. According to the American Immigration Council, as of 2016 more than 1,400 people have applied for DACA in Nevada.
As a note of disclosure, the license to this station is owned by the Board of Regents for the Nevada system of higher education.