Clinics help undocumented immigrants apply for deferral


UT law students and volunteers helped undocumented individuals organize the materials they needed to apply for relief from deportation and obtain legal work status for the next two years.

Implemented by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services this year, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program gives successful applicants two years of relief from deportation and work authorization. This past weekend, the UT School of Law Pro Bono program hosted its third free clinic for the program at Pickle Elementary School in North Austin to help applicants put together legal documentation to meet the program’s requirements. Among those are proof they were younger than 31-years-old by June this year and graduated from a U.S. high school.

To qualify, applicants also have to prove they were younger than 16-years-old when they were brought to the U.S. and have resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007.

Tina Fernandez, director of UT’s Pro Bono program, said the clinic focused on high school students because they are the easiest to help. 

“We have very limited capacity to serve [college] students,” Fernandez said. “[High school] students tend to be fairly straightforward cases. They’re in school; they’ve got school records.”

Fernandez said this doesn’t mean that college students are out in the cold. Members of the University Leadership Initiative, a group advocating for undocumented students, were at the clinic and are holding their own clinic Oct. 13.

Walter Trejo, a member of the group who volunteered to translate birth certificates, said he was happy to see the legislation passed because it offers relief to students who call America home.

“We are helping people, especially students that have been educated in the system, that speak the language,” Trejo said. “They are Americans by heart but not by documents, people that could eventually contribute to the betterment of this country and this state.”

Claudio Cruz, an official at Pickle Elementary School, said he believes the new program is a step in the right direction but that more permanent measures are needed.

“Some people have been here all their lives,” he said. “It’s time for us to make a decision.” 

Pedro Dasilua, an applicant at the clinic, said he was still relieved to have two years to make money to support his family and an education. Dasilua first came to the U.S. in 1994 and is now 26. 

Dasilua said that without current documentation, it was hard for him to hold a job and he felt he couldn’t use the education he was receiving at Austin Community College.

“I’ve got a family to start, and I can’t really start anything without having some kind of backup, study-wise,” Dasilua said. “[With this deferral] I can get a job, earn money and see if, with my wife, I can legalize.

While the clinic checks over applications and translates documents, clinic officials cannot promise that the applicant will be granted the two-year reprieve.

“They give you confidence that you’re doing it right,” Dasilua said. “If you don’t get accepted, at least you know you did everything you could.”

Printed on Monday, October 8, 2012 as: Clinics help immigrants file deferral applications