Dreamers in East Texas had the opportunity to meet with pro-bono attorneys Sunday who helped them with their Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program renewal applications. The meetings were made possible through the East Texas chapter of Justice For Our Neighbors partnering with North Texas Dream Team for a renewal workshop.

"With the short time frame that we believe that the DACA renewal period might be open ... we were concerned that people wouldn't have enough time or money to renew, so we definitely wanted to bring a free clinic to East Texas," said Belinda Martinez Arroyo, one of the attorneys volunteering her time.

While the Trump administration made an announcement to rescind DACA Sept. 5, U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco announced in his Jan. 9 ruling that the program must remain in place while litigation surrounding the administration's decision is resolved. This ruling allowed the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to start receiving renewals from previous DACA recipients starting Jan. 13.

"For us it was of the utmost importance to move as quickly as possible but at the same time, do so in a way that was responsible," said Kristian Hernandez, vice president of North Texas Dream Team.

Since the nonprofit was founded in 2012, North Texas Dream Team has helped over 8,000 people with their DACA applications and estimate a savings of close to a million dollars in legal and processing fees for Dreamers through these volunteer-led workshops, Hernandez said. They've also raised over 3,000 dollars since the Jan. 9 ruling for those who are looking to renew now.

There were attorneys, some of whom are Dreamers themselves, on hand to advise Dreamers on what next steps they should take and help with paperwork. Angelica Rodriguez was one of 15 Dreamers who were served during Sunday's workshop.

"Not everyone takes time out of their free time and comes and does this for free. It's hard to find people with good hearts sometimes," she said, talking about how appreciative she was of the attorneys providing their time and knowledge on the process. 

"When they're helping me, they're helping my (9-year-old) son too," Rodriguez added. "Because if I have DACA, I have a job, and if I have a job, I have money and I have him so I can buy him everything he needs."

The North Texas Dream Team will be hosting four more DACA renewal workshops in the coming week, all of which will be in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. More information on these workshops can be found on their website.

Justice For Our Neighbors is hosting a by-appointment-only workshop Jan. 27 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. about power of attorney, how to make a family preparedness plan and how to put together an emergency toolkit. Four pro-bono attorneys will be on hand during the workshop. Those interested can call 903-920-1273 to schedule an appointment for the workshop.


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Multimedia Journalist

As a multimedia journalist, nothing makes me happier than capturing the moments that define our community in East Texas. I'm a born-and-raised Texan and proud UT Austin alumna, and am always on the hunt for feature stories and the best tacos in town.