BerksBarrister_Fall2021 - 13

w w w . B E R K SB A R .o r g
I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I'm living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream
I dreamed
nd so sings Fantine of the endless misery forced upon
her because of her unfortunate social status. Her anthem
denounces a senseless struggle, an endurance suffered
equally by legions of United States residents documented by
the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, otherwise known
as DACA. A form of prosecutorial discretion, DACA defers
deportation action to certain undocumented youth. By youth
I mean an individual born after June 15, 1981, who entered
the country while under the age of 16, and who was physically
present in the United States on June 15, 2012 (when DACA was
announced). Among other restrictions, the applicant must also
have been in school, or have graduated from high school with a
degree or GED, or have been honorably discharged from the U.S.
Coast Guard or U.S. Armed Forces. Satisfying the qualifications
has earned these individuals the nomenclature " DACAmented
Dreamers. "
Early in 2020, Daniel Cortes, Esquire, an attorney with the
Community Justice Project (CJP) and member of the Berks
County Bar Association, placed a notice in our Berks County
Law Journal asking for volunteers to help with DACA renewal
applications. To be honest, I had no idea what he was talking
about, but the need to emerge from a pandemic paralysis moved
me to respond. I and approximately ten other interested members
attended (virtually) the training course that was first required.
That condition, in and of itself, should have warned me that I
was heading down a perilous path. For two hours, we received
instructions for completing various forms, shared ideas for
meeting in-person with our respective applicants, and learned
how to assemble and send the packet of information once
paperwork was properly documented.
The meeting shocked me and shamed me for my limited
understanding of this unending ordeal. I did not know that
DACA applicants had to complete a renewal process every
two years. I did not know that the complexity of the renewal
process would challenge the acumen of a doctorate degree. I
did not know the cost of the renewal process was $495 - every
single time. I did not know that failing to complete this process
could result in the loss of employment and other protections
and present a formidable barrier to re-apply. I did not know that
DACA promised a dream but gave no way of achieving it.
While the media often depicts immigration as an issue
of illegal aliens hiding within our borders, DACA applicants
present a very different reality. They are legal residents, but
painfully so. Their existence requires strict adherence to a variety
of immigration related policies, while also obeying all other U.S.
laws and regulations. To illustrate this duality of existence, let us
consider the fate of my assigned DACA applicant. I will refer
to him as Miguel, an immigrant from Mexico who first came to
this country in 2002 at the age of 14. Now thirty-three years old,
Miguel has been a DACA applicant since 2013. As part of the
Daniel Cortes, Esq., is a native of
Colombia and a proud Reading
High School graduate. He received
his Bachelor's in Business from
Kutztown University and J.D. from
Florida International University.
Daniel specializes in Immigration
Rights with the Community Justice
Project, where he advocates within
the immigrant community through
direct and systemic representation.
His practice involves filing
affirmative petitions for low-income
immigrants with USCIS, as well
as supporting immigrant-inclusive
policies and laws on local and state
levels. Daniel enjoys a variety
of activities, including cooking,
CrossFit, tennis, salsa dancing,
and skating.
application process, Miguel has always applied for employment
authorization, a type of permission DACA grants to applicants so
they may work in the United States without having a green card
or work visa. He also received a Social Security number by virtue
of the employment authorization. Employed on a continuous basis
since at least 2013, Miguel has faithfully paid his local, state, and
federal income taxes every year. He is also now married and has
three children.
Miguel is the neighbor you see cutting his grass on weekends,
cheering for his son at football games, leaving for work early in
the morning, ushering people to their seats at his church. His
weekly schedule differs very little from most of your schedules in
terms of his family and job responsibilities. Miguel, however, lives
in a constant state of uncertainty because DACA does not confer
a legal immigration status, a needed condition for him to pursue
U.S. citizenship. DACA simply defers any action, be it granting
legal status or ordering deportation, indefinitely.
Miguel and I first exchanged information by phone which
allowed me to prepare his now fourth renewal application.
Miguel's homework entailed purchasing a money order made
payable to the Department of Homeland Security (that
governmental bureau charged with protecting us from potential
terrorists like Miguel). We then met in person in the CJP offices,
which required Miguel to drive into the city and pay for parking.
He signed all the paperwork and produced his driver's license and
passport. Miguel presented himself in the most congenial manner,
with sincere appreciation for mine and Daniel's efforts to assist
him with this habitual fact of his life. He raised no complaints
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Fall 2021 | 13


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