Hayley Rauzi, a volunteer at the recent Deferred Action Clinic, said that helping people with their application process was one of the most rewarding experiences she's had since moving back to Marshalltown after graduating college.
"Knowing I am helping young people achieve dreams many of us take for granted, such as getting a job or going to college, is an amazing feeling," she said.
The second of a two-part DACA clinic was held on Nov. 17, where 27 qualified applicants met with lawyers from Justice from our Neighbors, American Friends in Service Committee and Davis Brown law firm of Des Moines. Ranging from high school students to parents with small children, the applicants at the Marshalltown clinic came to the U.S. from a variety of countries including Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala.
Volunteers like Hayley Rauzi helped 27 applicants with the deferred action process at a two-part free clinic facilitated by Immigrant Allies, Iowa Valley Education and Training Center, and St. Mary’s Hispanic Ministry. While applicants were not required to pay for legal services from Justice for Our Neighbors, American Friends in Service Committee, and Davis Brown law firm, many made freewill donations to the legal organizations.
Ruiz was just one of several local volunteers who attended an October webinar training, helped applicants fill out paperwork, and assisted at the legal clinic.
Lenihan ELL teacher and Immigrant Allies member, Sara Curtin-Mosher agreed with Rauzi about the power of the volunteer experience, adding that it was especially gratifying to have the opportunity to assist former students.
The two-part DACA clinic was the result of a collaboration between Immigrant Allies of Marshalltown, the Iowa Valley Education and Training Center, and St. Mary's Hispanic Ministry and was planned to help eligible people apply for deferred action, a new program announced this summer by the Obama administration.
The Deferred Action program is directed toward the same population who would have qualified for the DREAM Act (which has yet to pass through Congress), but was designed to provide a temporary solution, while a more permanent plan is worked out. Qualifications for eligibility include being 15-30 years old, arrival in the U.S. prior to the age of 16 before June 16, 2007, being currently in school or a graduate with a high school diploma or GED, and having a clean criminal record. The Deferred Action process requires application for a work permit, as well.
Applicants who receive approval will have protection from deportation, the ability to work legally, and in some states (including Iowa) the opportunity to apply for a driver's license. The Deferred Action status lasts for two years, and applicants can re-apply. Unlike the DREAM Act, the process does not offer any path to citizenship.
In addition to facilitating the planning of the clinic and recruiting volunteers, Immigrant Allies has also facilitated a fundraiser by selling fair trade items (chocolate, coffee, gifts) to help applicants with financial need pay toward the $465 application fee.
"This was a win-win situation," said Immigrant Allies member Joa LaVille. "The purchase of these fair trade items helps families globally to earn a living wage as small farmers or artisans, but it also helps these applicants right here in our community."
While LaVille said few applicants asked for assistance, Immigrant Allies has been able to provide some help, thanks to generous donations and to those who have purchased items from the fundraiser.
"You can really tell how much importance people have placed on applying for deferred action, by the kind of work and sacrifice they experienced to get together the fee," said LaVille.
More than one family had two or more siblings applying, she said, mentioning a high school student who sold enough from the fundraiser to raise nearly half of the fee, and a single mother who managed to save $1000 toward the application fees for her three teenagers.
Fundraising is continuing through Dec. 1, with catalogs available and outright donations welcome, as well.
"We will consider offering another Deferred Action clinic in the spring, if there is interest," said LaVille. In addition, there may be need for people to help offer transportation to the follow-up biometrics appointment that applicants must go to in Des Moines as one of the final steps of the process.
Anyone interested in learning more about the efforts to help youth who are eligible for deferred action, or wanting information about the fundraiser can contact Immigrant Allies as email@example.com