On September 7th various community organizations including Justice for Our Neighbors Nebraska (JFON_NE), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and OneWorld Community Health Centers, among others came together to host an information session on DACA at the Gross Auditorium on the College of Saint Mary campus.
The auditorium quickly reached its capacity and remaining attendees were asked to move to an overflow room so they wouldn’t miss out on important information. Community leaders, attorneys and advocates took the stage to share critical information with DACA youth and their supporters.
Virginia Maynes, the Child Welfare Managing Attorney, at JFON focused on sharing critical information about applications. “For someone that has DACA currently, one of the most important things for you to know is that your work permit will continue to be valid up until the date of expiration listed on your work permit card,” said Maynes, adding “that means that you can continue to work, you have no obligation to let your employer know that you have DACA. You have no obligation to tell your employer that DACA is ending. You cannot be fired or let go because you are a DACA youth, your permit is still valid and you can continue to work.”
Maynes also shared that if applicants didn’t file their DACA application before September 5th they can no longer do so as applications are no longer being accepted. “If you did apply for DACA and USCIS had your application before Tuesday, September 5th they will still review your application and adjudicate your application,” said Maynes.
The JFON-NE attorney said that there are currently people in the community who’s DACA will expire but they can still act. “For people that currently have DACA and your expiration is coming up, if your application was received by Tuesday your application will be adjudicated. If you have not yet filed for renewal and your current DACA grant is going to expire between Tuesday and March 5th of next year you can continue to file for renewal but only until October,” said Maynes.
According to Maynes those with an expiring DACA need to speak with someone that is licensed in this type of work as soon as possible. “The application will cost $495.00 dollars. There are very few ways to get around that. Submit your application before October 5th, get started as quickly as you can and do not wait until October 2nd or 3rd,” said Maynes.
She warned the public to be careful because there are individuals in the community that ae not licensed attorneys and do not have accreditation. “There are people that will use this situation to take advantage of people in our community. Please be careful. Make sure the person you are talking to is licensed,” warned Maynes.
The presenters also urged DACA recipients and supporters to act. Abbie Kretz of the Heartland Worker’s Center rallied those present. “The only way to do that is to act. We all have that capacity. We as individuals who know people who are affected by this need to be a part of that change. Each of us through our experiences can share that with others. We need to share that with elected representatives. We need to organize ourselves and build collective power. We need to build that foundation that is built on community organizing,” said Kretz.
There is wide support for DACA in Nebraska and community leaders are urging everyone to get involved now. In fact, during a September 5th press conference at the Lincoln Capitol other community leaders and elected officials urged the residents of Nebraska to come together.
“We are going to set up meetings with officials in Nebraska, they need to act and act now. There is a six-month window to deliver something in Washington. We will keep organizing ourselves. Keep in mind that mid-term elections are coming. We need to vote and vote big,” said the Heartland Workers Center Executive Director, Sergio Sosa.
Elected representatives also participated in the press conference. “To our friends and neighbors get out, be a body, be a voice and be out there with us. Do not get tired. We need everybody working together fighting for these fabulous young people who improve our state, who work so hard, the number one issue for the State Chamber is workforce and I will tell you what, taking away these fabulous DACA recipients, what is that going to do to our workforce? We need the energy, we need the innovation, we need these loving and fabulous new friends that I have. Lets stand together,” said Nebraska State Senator, Patty Pansing Brooks.
JFON-NE Executive Director, Emiliano Lerda said that mayors, members of commerce, police chiefs and other community leaders are expressing support for DACA youth and he and his colleagues plan on hosting more educational sessions to get more people involved.