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State And Local Agencies Aid DREAMers Facing Federal Deadline

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals gathered at the State Capitol Tuesday evening to protest President Trump's decision to phase out the program, known as DACA.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

State and local agencies and colleges across California are mobilizing to help "Dreamers" meet a key federal deadline this week.

Last month President Donald Trump announced he would wind down Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals, also known as DACA, an Obama-era program which offered temporary protection from deportation for some immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as minors.

That decision started a countdown for DACA recipients. If their status expires between Sept. 5 and March 5 they may apply for a two-year renewal, but documents must be received by the federal government on or before Oct. 5.

California lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown recently passed legislation providing $20 million to local agencies and non-profit organizations working directly with DACA recipients.

Dan Torres, director of immigrant integration within the office of the Governor, said the funds provide legal aid and grants to cover the $495 filing fee.

He points to numerous barriers in the DACA renewal process, including DREAMers "not knowing this was going to happen."

"No one knew the deadline would be so short to get resources together and file an application so quickly," Torres said.

Plus, Torres said, there's been confusion about the policy itself.

"People weren't sure what information was reliable."

The message is one of urgency, said Torres.

"Get consultation, get advice and finish your application right away so that it gets to the hands of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services by Oct. 5," he said.

The state's public university systems have also stepped in to help.

Viridiana Diaz leads the Dreamer Resource Center at Sacramento State. She said they've had an increase in traffic over the past few weeks from students seeking legal guidance on applications and grants to cover the DACA renewal fee.

Diaz said their effort is reaching beyond campus as students spread the word about the deadline - and help - in their communities. 

"This is exactly what we wanted to see happening," explained Diaz. "Of course we wanted to see our students get help and get renewed. But we also wanted to make sure the people close to them in their families and in their communities, could also be assisted."

More than a quarter of the nation's 800,000 DACA recipients live in California.

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