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Amid DACA uncertainty, more than 150 Minnesotans chip in to help cover applicants’ fees

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
More than 7,000 DACA recipients live in Minnesota.

For the past six years, Maria Ibarra, who’s been protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, has had to face the task of renewing her immigration status every two years.  

It’s a daunting and expensive process, but Ibarra didn’t have to pay anything when she filed her most recent application to renew her DACA status, which is set to expire in May. That’s because she’s among dozens of Dreamers who have received financial assistance to file their applications from ordinary Minnesotans who wanted to help.

In fact, even as most of the country’s focus on DACA revolves around debating whether individuals like Ibarra brought to the U.S. as children should be allowed to lawfully reside and work in the country, many of those DACA recipients themselves have far more pragmatic concerns: Amid all the uncertainty over the program, is it really worth the time and investment in the renewal process?

To do so, DACA recipients have to pay $495 to the Department of Homeland Security in application fees. That’s often on top of the $500-$1,500 they also have to pay for legal services and other fees.

Enter Kara Lynum, an immigration attorney in St. Paul. Lynum has led an effort to pool nearly $30,000 to help Ibarra and others pay for their DACA application fees. “We know for sure it would help 50 people,” said Lynum. “It sort of gives me hope that there are still good things that can happen in the face of all these negative things that are happening with immigration.”

The idea to raise the funding began in January after Lynum was interviewed by Minnesota Public Radio’s Tom Weber about how the uncertainty around DACA is impacting the lives of the more than 7,000 DACA recipients in Minnesota.

After the interview, a listener called Lynum’s law firm in St. Paul, saying that she wanted to pay the filing fees for some of the DACA program applicants. Lynum, an avid Twitter user, shared the news with her followers.

Within days, more than 150 people joined in to raise money to help DACA applicants. Ibarra became one of the first people who submitted their applications thanks to those efforts. “They could be spending their money on something else,” but they chose to support struggling DACA recipients, said Ibarra, a single mother and nursing student at Minneapolis Technical and Community College. “To me, that was very touching.”

The distribution of the money is organized through the Immigration Law Center of Minnesota (ILCM), which has been providing legal assistance to low-income immigrants and refugees for decades now, to help deserving DACA recipients renew their status.

“I think it’s a really powerful value statement that Minnesotans have made,” said John Keller, executive director of the organization. “This is a very tangible thing that people feel really good about.”

But finance isn’t the only form of assistance the organization has been receiving from members of the public in recent months. The organization has also seen more people signing up to volunteer with ILCM and joining its social media pages in solidarity with DACA recipients.

And that support continues to bloom amid a growing uncertainty of the DACA program, which was established in 2012, during the Obama administration, for people who entered the United States as children and have clean criminal records. The program allows them to work, drive and attend higher education in the U.S. without fear of deportation.

Last September, however, the Trump administration rescinded the program, which left thousands of Minnesota residents at risk of eventual deportation. Last month, however, a federal judge in California temporarily blocked the decision, forcing immigration authorities to reopen the DACA application process for renewal proceedings. Meanwhile, Democratic and Republican legislators in Washington, D.C., are in heated immigration negotiations about the fate of current and future immigrants, both documented and undocumented.      

“We’re hopeful that the promise that [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell made to take up immigration reform for Dreamers will happen within the next week or it will be the first agenda item after February 8th,” Keller said. “We’re talking about an immediate action.”  

Comments (15)

  1. Submitted by Tom Cytron-Hysom on 02/08/2018 - 10:46 am.


    How can one donate to this fund?

  2. Submitted by joe smith on 02/08/2018 - 11:02 am.

    Secure the border first

    then grant amnesty for DACA recipients who are employed, going to school or don’t have a criminal record. Ronald Reagan gave amnesty to illegal aliens in 1986 with the promise of a closed border, never happened. Unless you make coming to America illegally a deportation offense and tighten the border, you will have this issue continually. Once you secure the border, you can implement a merit based immigration policy. If we need laborers for short periods you have temporary work permits that have an expiration date that is enforced.
    Chain migration and visa lotteries is no way to pick the folks who will bring value to our society.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/08/2018 - 01:18 pm.

      “Chain Migration”

      Chain migration is properly called “family-based immigration.” Despite what a certain habitual liar in Washington has told you, it is not unlimited. A lawful permanent resident may sponsor a spouse and unmarried children. A citizen may sponsor a spouse, parents (like Melania Trump’s parents), children and siblings.

      The term “chain migration” is demeaning. Family-based immigration is a recognition of the basic need to connect with one’s family. It’s called human dignity, something I always thought was a part of our thinking in this country.

      • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 02/08/2018 - 09:21 pm.

        Adult children and siblings bring their wives who, in turn, can sponsor their parents and siblings so the chain continue – that is why it is unlimited, not because a particular person may bring an unlimited number of people.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/09/2018 - 01:07 pm.

          Not Unlimited

          Family unification is still subject to numerical limits, except (I think) for spouses. A person who qualifies still has to wait for a slot to become open for emigrants from their country.

          There are over 4 million people who have been approved for reunification, but who are still waiting for a slot to open up. The wait for a slot is anywhere from 18 months to 23 years.

          • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 02/10/2018 - 12:35 pm.

            Wait time is irrelevant to our conversation of “unlimited” migration…

            • Submitted by richard owens on 02/15/2018 - 11:01 am.

              xenophobia- can it be cured?

              I’m guessing no, unless the love of tax cuts can prevail:

              [migration policy article]
              “U.S. Spends More on Immigration Enforcement than on FBI, DEA, Secret Service & All Other Federal Criminal Law Enforcement Agencies Combined

              Nearly $187 Billion Spent on Federal Immigration Enforcement over Past 26 Years”
              [read it and weep]

              [American Immigration article]
              “The Cost in Dollars
              The immigration enforcement budget has increased massively since the early 1990s, but Congress continues to call for more taxpayer dollars to be spent at the border.

              Since 1993, when the current strategy of concentrated border enforcement was first rolled out along the U.S.-Mexico border, the annual budget of the U.S. Border Patrol has increased more than ten-fold, from $363 million to more than $3.8 billion (Figure 1).
              Figure 1: U.S. Border Patrol Budget, FY 1990-2015”
              [Charts are powerful-]

              Fear is a poor basis for policy.

              How much will taxpayers were chip in for “border security”?

              How much for global military domination?

              How much stupid ‘spending’ / ‘tax cuts’ make us safe?

              Box cutters and coach tickets took us to Iraq- that’s about 6 trillion projected costs.
              They didn’t have a navy or an air force.

              How do you get crazy people to see how crazy they are? (rhetorical)

              • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 02/17/2018 - 01:31 pm.

                I totally agree – fear is a very poor basis for policy. It’s much better to go by what is best for the country – economically and socially. And all facts suggests that practically unlimited not-merit based immigration is not beneficial now (it might have been in the past but times have changed).

  3. Submitted by Beth-Ann Bloom on 02/08/2018 - 12:31 pm.


    What a treat to see that in a time where immigrants (and even babies) are vilified for coming to this country that Minnesotans are willing to step up and help their neighbors deal with bureaucracy and prejudice.

    Let’s keep up the good work!

  4. Submitted by Peggy Reinhardt on 02/08/2018 - 05:11 pm.

    Great Story

    This gives clarity to recent remarks by Chief of Staff John Kelly. He claimed that “dreamers” were lazy and should get off the couch and apply – never mentioning (because he didn’t know?) that money is a big obstacle when dreamers need $495 – $1995 in fees and legal expenses to apply for DACA.
    Hopefully more dreamers will come forward trusting that there are funds available thanks to generous Minnesotans.

  5. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 02/09/2018 - 08:24 am.

    Republicans, it is time to give up this divisive issue

    Here politicians are looking for a scapegoat to cover an immigration problem caused by the inaction of politicians over many decades. Why the inaction? Because the illegals were providing a valuable service, so the politicians looked the other way, for decades. The DACA parents were allowed to come here to do the jobs, according to George W. Bush, that no one else would do. They have worked in the fields, at packing houses, for roofing companies where the menial jobs reside. Now the Republicans want to deport the children of the parents that came here illegally. They want to send them to a country they have never known. I guess the inhumane Republicans think the children were supposed to have a tantrum at the border because they knew that coming here was illegal. It appears the system has extracted enough work from the illegal parents that it is time to send them home. The Republican plan is to just break up the families and send them on their way. Some are calling for a merit-based system to determine who can come. I think that is a personal preference because it isn’t in the US law that we pick and choose. Maybe some of their relatives would not have passed the filter, they want to set up now, when their relatives came here decades ago. The US used to be a compassionate country and we need to get back to it. We don’t need to spend billions on a stupid wall. Politicians have been complaining about our immigration system for decades. It is time to fix it in a rational and compassionate manner. Simply throwing money at it to feed the Republican base won’t solve anything. Trump says the Mexicans will pay for the wall. If the great negotiator can’t negotiate to have the Mexicans pay for his irrational campaign promise that is not a reason I have to pay for the wall. When Trump realized Mexico would not pay for the wall he said they would pay for it in some form. NO, if they don’t pay for Trump’s pipe dream wall there is no wall. That was his promise, not mine. Republicans, it’ll be hard to do but it is time to give up this divisive issue.

  6. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/14/2018 - 10:42 am.

    The single basic policy feature that no one ever talks about…

    Decades ago the US government started moving towards a policy of reducing immigration rather than controlling it. That policy shift was ill-advised and ill-considered at the time, and it created the “crises” we now face.

    That shift in policy actually created “illegal” immigration by progressively making “legal” immigration difficult for most, and impossible for millions. At this point in time if someone just wants to move to this country and become a citizen, unless you have certain advantages, you basically have to hire a immigration lawyer to guide you through the process, and even then it’s a process that takes years and drops your application into a years long backlog of other applications.

    Immigration is good for most nations, and it’s been specially good for the United States. Immigration has provided necessary population, labor, innovation, and diversity every since the nation was founded. You don’t criminalize a basic asset, that was stupid thing to do. Having criminalized something that should never nave been criminalized in the first place, we’re now arguing about what to do with all the criminals we created, who aren’t really “criminals”, they’re just technically undocumented.

    We can’t have a coherent argument or discussion about immigration without acknowledging the disastrous policy change that created the “crises”. In this world, the reality is- if you don’t want “illegal” immigration, you have to have a reasonable process for legal immigration. Otherwise you’re just manufacturing a crises that’s toxic to the nation.

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