On Thursday evening, immigration advocates and attorneys offered free legal help to DACA recipients facing a quickly approaching deadline.
Undocumented immigrant 'Dreamers' who came to the U.S. as children had previously been offered protection from deportation under the Obama-era program known as DACA. Then in early September, the Trump administration announced the program would be phased out by March.
The announcement left nearly 800,000 young immigrants living in limbo.
Now, some of them are eligible to apply for a renewal that could keep them in this country legally for two more years. But they must apply for that renewal by October 5th: that's next week.
"It's really a critical time for anyone whose DACA is expiring. So if your DACA is expiring between September 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018 then you could renew your DACA. But you have to actually get it into immigration by October 5. So they have to receive it by that date," said Christopher Strawn, who is Director of the Immigration Clinic at UW's School of Law.
Strawn is also a staff attorney at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.
"We're really up against the deadline for being able to overnight or mail in your DACA renewal applications if you're eligible," he said.
That's why Strawn and other immigration attorneys and advocates hosted a DACA Renewal Legal Clinic on Thursday evening. The event took place at UW's School of Law.
Attorneys spent several hours providing free legal advice and helping eligible DACA recipients fill out the required renewal forms.
"It's really easy to mess up those forms, miss a box, check something wrong, and if that application gets returned you may be out of luck at this point, so we really want to make sure everything is filled out right," said Strawn.
Arnoldo Valencia is one of many who showed up, and said they were grateful for the help. He's been living in the U.S. since he was six years old. His DACA status expires in January.
"Without my renewal I basically won't be able to work. I basically won't even be able to go to college," he said. "So it's a blessing to be at this clinic. I'm hoping today we can get the renewal together and the attorney will be able to help me and fill it out and it will get there on time so I can stay here and have more opportunities.