DAPA (deferred action for parents of Americans and lawful permanent residents) and an expanded DACA (deferred action for childhood arrivals) are the acronyms for two immigration initiatives announced last November by President Obama. Although a district court ruling has stayed implementation, hundreds of local migrant workers are curious about eligibility for these programs which could offer quasi-legal status and work permits to many currently undocumented immigrants.
A series of workshops sponsored by the Legal Aid Society of Rochester is underway, with volunteers from other agencies helping to assess the regional need.
Nishant Srivastava, a student intern at Volunteer Legal Services Project, joined VLSP attorney Vasanthi Pillai at a workshop in Sodus in February, using his knowledge of high school Spanish to help immigrants fill out a screening questionnaire used as a basic litmus test of eligibility for DAPA or DACA.
Walter Ruehle, LAS director of immigration, indicated there were about 90 people at that first workshop and maybe 70 at the one held in Elba a week later.
“Many of the immigrants I met in Sodus were Spanish-speaking farm workers with various levels of English language skills,” Nishant said. “My Spanish vocabulary may be a bit rusty, but I was able to understand and communicate much better than if I’d taken Latin.”
If the court-imposed temporary injunction is lifted and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services starts accepting applications for DAPA and expanded DACA, Ruehle and Pillai anticipate a strong need for volunteer attorneys. Their assessment from three regional workshops so far indicates many potential applicants will need some assistance, and of those applicants, the majority will be Spanish-speaking laborers with dreams of staying in the U.S.
Sheila Gaddis, VLSP Executive Director, anticipates strong support for this effort from Rochester attorneys.
By Nora A. Jones