Several Madison nonprofit organizations are uniting to develop free legal clinics for undocumented immigrants who qualify for new programs President Barack Obama announced in November.
The Deferred Action for Parents of Americans program and the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program open up temporary legal residence for approximately four million undocumented immigrants nationwide.
To assist in the application process, Madison organizations like Centro Hispano, Jewish Social Services, RISE Law Center, Catholic Multicultural Center and others are combining their individual efforts to set up free legal clinics.
The Madison City Council also approved $30,000 in assistance from the city’s contingent reserve last week to go toward the effort. Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff said that funding will go to a half-time staff member at Centro Hispano to coordinate information about the clinic’s hours, train volunteers and get responses from people wanting to go to the clinic.
“We do a lot of initiatives in support of immigration reform, but this is actually applying our money behind our many resolutions,” Bidar-Sielaff said.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will start taking applications for the expanded DACA program on Feb. 18 and will start accepting applications for DAPA sometime in mid-to-late May.
The expanded DACA now allows immigrants of any age who arrived before they were 16 and have lived in the U.S. continuously since Jan. 1, 2010, to apply for deferred action. DAPA encompasses the broader reform, allowing parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents to apply for deferred action, providing they have lived in the U.S. continuously since Jan. 1, 2010.
The council resolution recognizes that Madison is home to a large number of undocumented immigrants from all parts of the world and that many will need assistance to apply for these deferrals.
“We recognize and uphold the right to be raised with the love and support of a unified family as a fundamental human right, without the constant fear that that family will be taken from you,” the resolution says.
The coalition is meeting on Monday to figure out more details on the clinics and will start holding them once applications can be accepted.
“I think it’s great and I think it’s a really good opportunity for us to get people to apply and hopefully get their application processed before it changes,” Bidar-Sielaff said.
Jewish Social Services director of immigrant and refugee services Janice Beers said the organizations will continue to work one-on-one with clients, but the clinics will offer an alternate route for people with more straightforward cases.
She also said that the workshops will involve a very thorough screening process that will identify whether applicants are also eligible for other immigration benefits.
“We live in such a special community and to have all of the agencies coming together to work on this … it’s a wonderful collaboration,” she said.