Taking a break from filling out her own application, Deisy Escalera escorts other undocumented immigrants to a large room at the Capitol Hill Community Center where volunteers help with paperwork that could help them avoid deportation and work in the U.S.
“I've been too busy helping other people to do my own,” said Escalera, a University of Oklahoma senior who plans to graduate in May.
On Oct. 27, about 50 undocumented immigrants received help applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a process announced by President Barack Obama this summer. The clinic was organized by DREAM Act Oklahoma's chapter in Oklahoma City and gave applicants free counsel with attorneys and experts.
This is the organization's second clinic in Oklahoma City. The first helped around 100 applicants.
“There are so many people who need help,” said Fredy Valencia with the Oklahoma City chapter. “This is a way to help people with simple applications who can't afford an attorney.”
Along with the six-page application, supporting documents including school transcripts, military records, proof of continuous residence and other records are needed.
The applicants are requesting to be considered for deferred action, a process that gives them a two-year, renewable deportation reprieve. Among other requirements, they must have arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16. They must have been younger than 31 as of June 15, be enrolled in school, graduated or served in the military and have a clean criminal record. The applications are reviewed by federal authorities on a case-by-case basis.
Though approximations vary, the Immigration Policy Center estimates about 6,200 immigrants in Oklahoma could be eligible for the program. Another 3,000 could benefit in the future if the initiative remains in place.
Nationally, about 1.4 million could be eligible for the program, with California, Texas, Florida and New York having the highest number of potential beneficiaries.