The most recent data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service shows about 180,000 have applied so far. About 4,600 have been approved.
If approved, immigrants are eligible for renewable work permits. It does not give them legal status or a path to citizenship.
“This allows these kids to work and help their families,” Valencia said.
Individuals from the first clinic in August are just now starting to get approved and get their work permits, he said.
Bringing yourself out of the shadows can be intimidating,” Tulsa attorney Rebekah Guthrie said. “But it's worth it.”
Guthrie, a volunteer at the clinic, said she helps out because many immigrants are desperate to apply and don't have the money to pay an attorney. The fee to request consideration is $465.
“They really just want the opportunity to be here and to work,” she said.
Oklahoma City attorney Imelda Maynard, also a clinic volunteer, said she's heard of instances where so-called “notarios” and others without credentials claim they can help individuals with their application paperwork for a fee. Often, they do more harm than good.
“Sometimes the person has no idea any fraud is going on,” said Maynard. “Some may actually be well-meaning, but the wrong kind of help can hurt.”
Getting applications correct and complete with the right supporting documents is critical. Mistakes and errors can lead to application denials with no opportunity to appeal.
Valencia said his group has plans to set up mobile units that can travel across the state to help with applications.
“Time and resources are our only constraint,” he said