RAICES DACA Fund Provides Hope During the Pandemic

RAICES celebrates the recent SCOTUS ruling on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) as a short-term legal victory to protect immigrant youth from detention and deportation. As the Trump administration seeks to undermine the decision, we are continuing to do what we’ve done best for over 30 years — shift quickly to meet the changing needs of those we have pledged to defend.

That is why we are doubling down on our DACA direct client services nationally, hosting eligibility information sessions, granting financial assistance for refilling fees, and serving as counsel for those in need of extended representation and deportation protection.

Through our DACA Fund, we have been able to provide financial assistance to 895 DACA recipients — and counting. We are changing lives. So many of the DACA recipients we are working with have been directly impacted by COVID-19, including Karina who received support from our DACA Fund. This is her story:

“I was born in Mexico and have been living in the United States for 20 years now. For 16 of those years, my mom was a single parent. We are survivors of domestic abuse. Against all odds, and without speaking any English, my mom raised two daughters in a foreign country. It has not been easy. For many years, we struggled and sometimes, we still do. But I know it is all worth it for a better future. My sister has special needs and my mom is diabetic, so I feel it is only right that their future depends on me.

When I got accepted into a nursing program a few years ago, I had to drop out because DACA did not exist and nursing, or any healthcare program, requires a work permit and a Social Security number to enroll. I felt my world collapse when I was notified of this. I really thought my life was over, that my purpose was no longer possible, and that my undocumented status meant my hard work did not matter.

Now, I am 30 years old and currently in the Respiratory Care program at Lone Star College-Kingwood. It has been extremely difficult to stay in school. I tell myself it has to get better. I tell myself I cannot give up now because this is my only chance to make something out of life, this moment right now. Finishing my program will mean I can have a steady income with a steady job in the medical field. It will also mean I get to do what I always dreamed of – which is helping premature babies breathe and stay alive. I feel this is my calling because in 1997 my sister was born at 5 and a half months in Mexico and had very little chance of living.

Being part of the Lone Star College System at Kingwood is amazing, especially after finding out that I am the first DACA student to be in the program. It’s just such an honor to represent my Hispanic heritage and my status as a DREAMer. Making my mom and my sister proud was always the goal, but now I want to make my entire program proud, including the amazing teachers and staff who support me.

When DACA was passed, I was able to apply and renew my permit every two years with much sacrifice because each time the renewal fee is $495. My family is low income and it has always been a sacrifice for us to renew, but we are grateful for this program. When the pandemic hit, I felt uneasy because I knew my DACA permit would expire in just a few months. Without a job and the bills piling up, I did not know how I was going to be able to pay for my DACA renewal. I started looking for help online and I found the RAICES DACA assistance opportunity. At first, I didn’t even know if it was real, but I applied anyway and got notified that I got the assistance! I was so overwhelmed with happiness because it meant securing my legal status and being able to stay in my current college program. Without organizations like RAICES and without the donors that make it possible to have assistance programs for DACA, my future would have been uncertain. Education is really the key to it all, but being a good and grateful person is the secret to purpose.”


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