BIIN and Santa Teresa Co-Host DACA Renewal Clinic

Published by Program Manager on

BIIN and Santa Teresa Co-Host DACA Renewal Clinic

Nancy Plankey-Videla doing intake at the DACA Clinic held at Santa Teresa Parish.

Brazos Interfaith Immigration Network offers a wide range of free services to its immigrant community in Brazos County. This past weekend, BIIN partnered up with Santa Teresa Catholic Church to meet another need in our community. On Saturday, August 26th, from 11am-3pm, we helped host a free DACA renewal clinic.

DACA stands for Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The DACA program was first instituted in 2012, which allowed people who came to the United States as children who met several guidelines to request consideration of deferred action, allowing them to renew their status every two years. Deferred action, according to USCIS, is “an exercise of prosecutorial discretion to defer removal action against an individual for a certain period of time.” It does not provide lawful status, but rather protects one from deportation granted they meet the guidelines provided. Additionally, those under DACA are able to request work authorization. DACA has gone through many changes and objections since it started, going through many different court decisions. Though at the moment initial DACA applications are not being processed, renewals are still being accepted. Nearly 700,000 people within the U.S. are under DACA protection. That’s how many are currently working or studying in our country who have to file for renewal every two years. This process can be confusing for some, as well as expensive when you add legal aid to it.

For this DACA renewal, three local lawyers volunteered to aid some of our local DACA recipients at zero cost to them. Mark Kinzler is an immigration attorney from Austin, TX, but he was a former director of Immigration Legal Services at Catholic Charities of Central Texas. Mark Kinzler has been a long-time advocate for immigrants. Robert Hoffman and Javier García were the other two immigration attorneys from the Lawrence Rushton Law Firm in Houston. Luis García was also present as a law clerk from their law firm, which has a satellite office here in Bryan. Rushton Law Firm has also been a long-time advocate for immigrants. According to Angelita Garcia-Alonzo (BIIN founder, former board member and community partner), she recalls that “at the invitation of Santa Teresa, Lawrence Rushton started coming to hold informational meetings for the immigrant community in 2006-2007. He did that when raids were common in different parts of the U.S.” Angelita also notes that the Santa Teresa Parish has a history of collaborating with these immigration attorneys. 

We are so grateful to them for volunteering this time at this DACA renewal clinic. Through an online sign-up, clients were able to make an appointment to meet with one of the lawyers for an online renewal. Since April of 2022, USCIS has allowed renewals to be filed safely online through your own USCIS account, making the streamline process easier than having to paper print and mail all documents.

The process was quite simple. Clients showed up to Santa Teresa Catholic Church on their registered time with their requested documents. They were asked to bring their current work permit and DACA approval notices, a credit or debit card for the $495 USCIS filing fee, and a copy of previous applications. The lawyers and volunteers handled the rest by filling out application questions, scanning and uploading their permits, and taking and uploading pictures of them as requested by USCIS. This was all done through the client’s individual USCIS account. If they did not have one coming in, one was created for them. This allows them to log in whenever and check on the status of their application.

DACA renewal 1
Photo from Santa Teresa Parish's Facebook Page.

In total, we helped 13 people renew their DACA! The lawyers were busy the entire time, answering questions while the volunteers did a tremendous job assisting in filling out applications. We are so grateful to all our volunteers who helped this event become a success, as well as Santa Teresa Catholic Church for working alongside us and lending out their space.

Thank you also to the lawyers who volunteered their time. This includes Mark Kinzler from Kinzler Law Firm, Robert Hoffman and Javier García from Rushton Law Firm, as well as their law clerk Luis García. We are so grateful!

Thank you Adriana Stowe for writing this story!