For Dreamers in Rhode Island looking to renew their DACA paperwork, the process just got $495 easier. Gov. Gina Raimondo announced on Monday that the state will pay the application fee of anyone eligible to renew the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program by the Oct. 5 deadline. A group of organizations and individual donors have raised the $170,000 to pay for every eligible person in the state.
DACA is the Obama-era executive action that grants legal status to the country's Dreamers, young people who were brought to the United States by their parents as children without papers. As a part of the Trump administration's broader anti-immigrant policies, the program will be scrapped, ending for good on March 5. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the "wind down" earlier this month, taking issue with the program's legal standing as an executive order but also spouting some anti-immigrant propaganda.
The silver lining of his announcement was the framework for ending the program. Those who have a valid DACA status can continue to benefit from its protections from deportation (and the right to work legally) until their card runs out. DACA decisions are good for two years and then renewable. Anyone whose card will expire before March 5, has been told to renew early. Oct. 5 will be the cut off.
That's where Rhode Island comes in. The governor wants to make sure that everyone in her state can meet the new deadline. Raimondo said in a statement that leaders from the state had come together after Sessions' announcement to figure out how to "stand up for Rhode Island's Dreamers." "We're not going to allow $495 to get in the way of our neighbors' dreams," she added. "Now is the time to fight for our values and take action against hatred and bigotry."
The Hill reported that 1,460 DACA applications from the state had been received by ICE by March. A total of 3,000 Rhode Islanders are eligible to apply. The percentage of those who have applied in the past and would be looking for a renewal is unclear, but the $170,000 would cover the renewals for 343 people.
The governor said that everyone would be covered. "I'm proud to announce an initiative to pay DACA renewal fees for every Rhode Island DREAMer who is eligible to apply for renewal by Oct. 5," she wrote on Twitter. The Rhode Island Foundation is coordinating the money and will make grants to community agencies that can then cover the renewal fees directly.
Of course, this is just a stop-gap measure. The federal government ultimately has to be the source of any permanent solution. It is up to the Trump administration and Congress to come together to look for a solution that will truly give relief from deportation and a legal status to the 1.9 million young people in the country who were previously eligible for DACA.
Just last week Democratic congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer announced a deal with President Trump to pass a replacement bill. Later, Trump said on Twitter that there was no deal, but that he supported keeping the Dreamers in the country. What will be the main bargaining chip is money for the wall, a major no-go for the Democrats.
Activists have already protested Pelosi for the potential deal. "We are not a bargaining chip!" they said at a press conference she held on Monday, in which she planned to detail the supposed deal with Trump. "All of us or none of us," the young immigrant activists reportedly shouted at an event concerning DACA in San Francisco on Monday.
The deal will not be an easy one, but at least for Rhode Islanders, the stop gap measure is a little easier to come by. "DREAMers are Rhode Islanders. They're our neighbors, classmates, friends," Raimondo said. Supporting them financially sends the right, inclusive message.