As the October 5th deadline for DACA renewal quickly approaches, organizations around the Bay Area are scrambling to keep current Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients under the protective wing of the program. Out of the 1,586,657 nationwide DACA approvals, 424,995 reside in California, most coming from Mexico, Guatemala, Korea, El Salvador, and the Philippines. After October 5th, no new applicants will be accepted to the DACA program regardless of eligibility. With this new sense of urgency comes strong efforts to combat the impact of the recommendations for repeal by President Trump.
On September 23, Representative Jackie Speier of District 14 gave morning presentations concerning citizenship and rights of undocumented immigrants. Following a subdued “Know your Rights” presentation at an East Palo Alto school, Rep. Speier hosted a “Path to Citizenship” event at San Mateo City Hall Chambers, where almost 100 people, primarily immigrants, gathered to learn about the citizenship exam and application process. Rep. Speier stressed the positive effects of immigration on American society and on her personally, citing her father’s path to citizenship as well as that of her office’s communications director, Katrina Rill, as sources of inspiration for many following the same path. Rill, who gave an impromptu speech at the request of Rep. Speier, described the intersection of biculturalism and patriotism in the path to citizenship for immigrants, illegal or otherwise.
“When you stand and take that oath, it’s a great feeling,” Rill said.
“In California, in 2015, 880,000 immigrant business owners accounted for 38% of the self-employed residents,” Rep. Speier said to a culturally diverse audience on Saturday. On the profound effects of diversity in San Mateo County and the state as a whole, Rep. Speier said, “We are truly a hotbed of innovation, and immigrants are an integral part of that.”
Later in the day, the San Francisco Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs coordinated their periodic DACA renewal workshop, but this time opened the event up to people not residing in San Francisco. The workshop took place at Mission High School and attracted over 100 people seeking free legal screenings or renewals. Staff workers sported t-shirts that said “I am an immigrant” or “I stand with immigrants” as volunteers offering legal assistance sat with attendees of different backgrounds at the high school’s cafeteria. Adrienne Pon, executive director of OCEIA and the SF Immigrant Rights Commission, said that alternatives to the workshop would be a bit more painstaking.
“People would have to do it on their own, go to community-based organizations, or find a lawyer… here it’s a little easier since they have everything they need in one place,” Pon said.
The event not only offered application renewal assistance and attorney consultations, but also featured informational sessions on the future of Deferred Action and assistance with the $495 application fee. The workshop lasted from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., giving enough time for attendees to complete most of the application process.
These efforts on Saturday reflect a Bay Area-wide commitment to immigrants, regardless of the legal basis of their entry, in a time of need. OCEIA’s other initiatives, like the Community Ambassadors program, which encourages workforce development, and the SF Pathways to Citizenship Initiative, which provides multilingual legal assistance, are continuing to increase in relevance now that October is just around the corner
“We call this country a melting pot for a reason,” Rep. Speier said. “It is what makes this country great.”