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Governor Gina Raimondo announces initiative to fund DACA application fees

RI to partner with local organizations to provide financial, legal aid to DACA recipients

By and
Senior Staff Writers
Tuesday, September 19, 2017

In a press conference held Monday, Gov. Gina Raimondo announced an initiative to help in-state residents enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program cover the application fee needed to renew their DACA status.

To renew DACA status — which lasts for two years — prospective participants must pay a $495 application fee. As The Herald previously reported, in light of the Trump Administration’s decision, Dreamers whose DACA status expires on or before Mar. 5 must renew their status by Oct. 5 — for some, a daunting process given the steep application fee.

Recognizing this, Raimondo said that the state is joining local organizations in an “effort to provide financial support and legal services to dreamers threatened by the president’s action.” The Rhode Island Center for Justice, Roger Williams Law School’s immigration clinic, Pro Bono Collaborative, Progreso Latino, Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island and the Coalition of Advocates for Student Opportunities will work with the state to support in-state DACA recipients attempting to renew their status, Raimondo said.

Through a partnership with organizations like the Rhode Island Foundation and the United Way of Rhode Island, the state received “over $170,000 in philanthropic donations” to help eligible in-state Dreamers renew their DACA status by the Trump administration’s deadline, Raimondo said.

“It is our goal and intention to be able to provide the money for anyone who needs it. … We’re not gonna let $495 stand in the way of someone’s dreams,” she added.

She also urged her constituents to place pressure on Congress to pass legislation to replace DACA.

At a press conference held in the immediate aftermath of President Trump’s decision to end DACA, elected officials present “all pledged to do everything in (their) power to stand up for Rhode Island’s more than 1,200 Dreamers,” Raimondo said.

The governor also reassured her undocumented college-attending constituents that their ability to pay college tuition would not be compromised by the Trump administration’s policy decision.

“If you are a Dreamer, you’re still eligible for in state tuition at URI, CCRI and Rhode Island College and that’s not going to change regardless of the Trump administration’s actions,” Raimondo said.

“The Trump administration’s decision is … just plain cruel and inhumane,” Raimondo said. “We have an opportunity in the next six months to make enough noise and let our collective voices be heard.”

At the beginning of her speech, Raimondo cited Javier Juarez MA’18 as an individual who has benefited from the DACA program. “He arrived in Rhode Island 18 years ago when he was 10-years-old. … He grew up in Rhode Island and for all practical purposes felt like a Rhode Islander.”

Though Raimondo cited Juarez as a DACA recipient during the press conference, he is unable to benefit from the initiative because his DACA status expires after March 5.

“I think it’s great that Rhode Islanders are standing behind their Dreamers and their DACA recipients by raising these funds,” he said. “But it only helps less than 10 percent of the whole DACA recipient population in Rhode Island.”

Juarez also said he wished the governor had spoken about passing an executive order to allow DACA recipients to continue renewing their driver’s licenses. It is “one of the most important documents that you can have.”

“Without the license you’re basically back to being fully undocumented,” Juarez said, adding that if the governor wanted to really “do the right thing,” she would sign an executive order allowing DACA recipients to renew their licenses on the standard five year cycle rather than a two year cycle, which is more expensive.