Women’s center offers to pay filing fees for DACA eligibles; Filipinos report high approval rates

MOIA Commissioner Nisha Agarwal; Consul General Mario de Leon Jr. The FilAm Photos

MOIA Commissioner Nisha Agarwal; Consul General Mario de Leon Jr. The FilAm Photos

By Cristina DC Pastor

Disheartened by the low rate of applications, officials and advocates are urging undocumented youth to apply for the federal program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. They said an $18 million grant from the city will bankroll resources for legal assistance including payment of the $465 filing fee.

Of about half a million youth around the country who are potential DACA beneficiaries, only 32,000 have signed up in New York State, said Commissioner Nisha Agarwal of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs or MOIA.

Asian youth who registered the highest enrolment were Koreans and Filipinos, although their numbers were still low, according to Carrey Wong, a staff attorney for New York Asian Women’s Center or NYAWC. While the rate of application remains dismal, the rate of approval, especially among Filipinos, is high at 70 percent, she said. Out of 3,874 Filipinos who applied in 2013, 3,489 have been approved for DACA.

Wong said the reasons for the Filipinos’ high rate of DACA approval could be due to the “extra care” they take in preparing their applications. Consul General Mario de Leon, who was one of the speakers, said Filipinos are likely to do their homework and consult with several lawyers and before making their decision. “Sigurista kasi tayo,” he told The FilAm.

Wong said the NYAWC, a non-profit organization that advocates for victims of human trafficking and domestic violence, would like to reach out to more Asian youth who are potential beneficiaries. She urged them to call the center at 212-732-0054 ext. 173 to make an appointment to speak to an attorney. If after consultations the lawyer advices them to file, she said NYAWC will pay the filing fee.

NYAWC lawyer Carrey Wong

NYAWC lawyer Carrey Wong

There are several reasons for the low turnout, and the filing cost is just one of them. One is the concern that by coming out, it will expose other members of the family who are also undocumented. Others are discouraged by the heavy documentation required . There is also the lack of information about who may be eligible. Some youth who have dropped out of high school may not know that they can go to literacy school, get a certificate, and still be eligible, said Wong.

She added the “shame factor,” where some Asians adamantly refuse to expose themselves as undocumented aliens.

Consul General de Leon said the Filipino community came to know about DACA within a week after President Obama approved the memorandum in 2012. The consulate organized a legal clinic for potential applicants, and 26 youth have filed their applications on the advice of the lawyers present.

“There was a lot of hesitancy,” he said. “One of the reasons was the fear that the family will be deported.”

Agarwal said the DYCD grant will hopefully address concerns about of low enrolment. “New York has a lower rate of DACA enrollment than many other cities across the country, and a low rate among Asian populations,” she said.

DACA can be “very valuable” to young people, said Larry Lee, executive director of NYAWC.

“The person can receive authorization to work, a social security card, can apply for a driver’s license, and has the lowest priority for deportation for two years,” he said.

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