The University of Colorado Law School’s Criminal and Immigration Defense Clinic, led by Clinical Professor Violeta Chapin, took its services on the road this semester, offering free renewal assistance for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients in Fort Collins, Greeley, and across Boulder County. The law school also raised approximately $34,000 from local donors to help defray the $495 fee charged by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for each renewal application submitted.
The clinic’s renewal workshops were organized following the Trump administration’s Sept. 5 announcement that it would be rescinding the DACA program, which deferred the deportation of young immigrants who entered the U.S. as minors for a two-year renewable period.
DACA recipients whose status expire between Sept. 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018, had until Oct. 5 to apply to renew their DACA for another two years. Approximately 17,000 DACA recipients live in Colorado, and rough estimates of the number of DACA recipients in Colorado whose permits expire within the narrow timeline is about 4,000, Chapin said.
Students in the Criminal and Immigration Defense Clinic represent non-citizens in either criminal or immigration proceedings free of charge. Since the election of President Trump and growing uncertainty of DACA's fate, Chapin shifted the clinic’s focus for the 2017-18 academic year to working primarily with undocumented college students enrolled at universities and community colleges across Colorado.
In an effort to help as many eligible DACA recipients apply to renew their status as possible during the brief application window, Chapin and her students conducted confidential two-day long renewal workshops in Boulder, Fort Collins, and Greeley for DACA students enrolled at Colorado State University, Community College of Denver, CU Boulder, CU Denver, Front Range Community College, Metropolitan State University of Denver, and University of Northern Colorado.
The clinic hosted a training at Colorado Law on Sept. 13 to teach interested faculty, staff, and community members how to help DACA recipients complete the seven-page renewal application. The training was standing-room only with a line out the door.
The first renewal workshop, held in Boulder on Sept. 20, attracted approximately 30-40 volunteers comprised of law students, faculty, staff, and community members ready to assist with the renewal application. Many DACA recipients brought their parents along, who helped recall detailed questions on the application, such as where and when their child last entered the country.
Emily Anderson (’19) is an aspiring immigration lawyer in the criminal and immigration defense clinic. She helped out at every renewal workshop.
“It’s really great to be able to use my legal education for something so powerful,” she said. “I am thankful to be able to help, especially given the state of DACA and how we’re able to provide an outlet to people to get the legal assistance they need. I’m grateful to the clinic for letting me help people in such an important way.”
Following the Oct. 5 renewal deadline, Chapin said the clinic will be closely following any new developments with respect to the legal fate of Dreamers both nationally and in Colorado, whether it is through passage of some version of the Dream Act through Congress or extension of the DACA renewal deadline should Congress fail to act.
Last semester, law students in the clinic interviewed DACA students on campus to see if they qualify for alternative forms of immigration relief should the program be terminated. The DACA students were then provided with a legal memo advising them of possible options. The clinic will continue to provide these screenings for alternative forms of immigration relief free of charge throughout the state of Colorado in the coming weeks and months for anyone who wishes to learn what their potential options for relief are moving forward.
For more information about the Criminal/Immigration Defense Clinic at Colorado Law, visit colorado.edu/law/academics/clinics/criminalimmigration-defense-clinic.
Pictured: Clinical students preparing to speak with DACA recipients at the renewal workshop in Fort Collins.