Metro, News

Dorcas International offers aid, support to R.I. immigrants

Nonprofit helps DACA recipients file renewal applications free-of-charge amid political flux

By
Senior Reporter
Thursday, April 26, 2018

Dorcas International works to advise and protect the R.I. immigrant community in the face of the Trump Adminstration’s attempt to end DACA.

From July 2017 through March 2018, the Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island helped 116 individuals participating in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and 82 people under Temporary Protected Status renew their immigration papers, said Tatyana Tsangarakis-Almeida ’06, the director of citizenship and immigration services at Dorcas International.

Located in Providence, Dorcas International is the “largest and longest-running legal immigration service in Rhode Island” and provides support to immigrants and refugees throughout the state, according to the organization’s website.   

In addition to advising individuals through the process of renewing their DACA or TPS status, Dorcas International does “all kinds of processes for immigrants and refugees, … (including) naturalization, petitioning for family members and filing green card applications,” Tsangarakis-Almeida said. Since DACA’s creation in 2012, Dorcas International has helped people re-register for the program, which currently protects over 800,000 young immigrants from deportation, she added.

Following President Donald Trump’s announcement in September 2017 of his directive to end DACA, Dorcas International worked with other immigration advocacy groups from Rhode Island to create a fund to cover the renewal fee for the program, Tsangarakis-Almeida said. “We received a total of $170,000 to provide scholarships for DACA renewal requesters. They covered the $495 (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) fee and also covered our $100 (service) fee,” she said. DACA recipients seeking to renew their participation in the program can visit the organization’s office and submit their application free of charge, she added.

But TPS and Deferred Enforced Departure holders looking to renew their statuses must still pay the USCIS fee as well as Dorcas International’s service fee unless they qualify for a fee waiver, she added. For individuals attempting to re-register for TPS and obtain work authorization, the cost of renewal can range from $410 to $495, according to the USCIS website.

The Trump administration has ended TPS for individuals from El Salvador, Nicaragua and Haiti. Trump has also ended the DED designation for Liberians.

For the moment, Dorcas International’s biggest challenge is a lack of funding, which prevents the organization from expanding its services and forces it to “only take a handful of deportation cases a year,” Tsangarakis-Almeida said. 

Despite these constraints, Christena Carollo, marketing and communications assistant at Dorcas International, said she still finds immense value in the organization’s work. “This is an incredible opportunity to help support the population and help spread the word, and also help anybody who’s here with legal services and education,” she said.

For instance, the organization performs regular outreach to undocumented immigrants living in Rhode Island to inform them of their legal rights, Tsangarakis-Almeida said.

“If we didn’t exist, people would have to rely on the Internet ­— if they have Internet access — or maybe going to a private attorney and paying an arm and a leg” to receive support, she said. “Having this low-cost, reliable option is really important in the community.”

As a child of immigrant parents, Tsangarakis-Almeida said she personally empathizes with individuals who rely on Dorcas International’s services. “I want to be in this nonprofit setting to be able to help people who can’t afford to be paying more money. It’s just something I feel I need to be doing.”