Fieldnote, 27 Oct. 2012

Figure: Families involved in the DACA registration process. The clinic was held at a local church, and 61 applicants completed their paperwork to be considered eligible for deferred action.

The DACA clinic: training from last week put into practice. Turns out I was certified as a “paralegal” for this clinic. I really didn’t do much but make sure all the necessary “proof” for the process was in order from the applicants. I communicated in English primarily, but did my best to speak to different adults in Spanish. For the most part, I made myself clear in English, and I think I helped probably twenty or so people, examining their documents and making sure everything was in order.

There were over 50 completed cases from the event, 61 folks showed up with documents. By all this, I mean that the process for conducting the clinic was coordinated well by a church and a few non-profit organizations serving immigrants and Lexington Latinos. The church held pre-clinics to get things in order for the day lawyers (today) would come to make sure everything was in order before sending DACA papers off. There was the risk that if a piece of information was missing on a file, the Department of Homeland Security would deny the application. This did not mean, necessarily, that the applicant would be deported. Rather, that would only happen if there was a criminal history, one that would actually best be hidden than brought up in applying for DACA. If the applicant had a clean case, that is, no criminal record, and if they forgot a piece of paperwork, then their applicant would be denied. The case could not be appealed, but one could apply again, though the individual would have to pay the $465 again.

At one point two siblings arrived. The young man 19, his sister 17. They seemed like a nice group, with their parents and a younger sibling. They drove a ways to be here. I covered the risks with these young folks in English, but their mother and father both had questions. The mother’s question was about applications being denied. I had to explain to her the best I could (with the help of her son) what this mean, spelling out what I just wrote above. Not an easy task. There was a sheet there to help her in Spanish, but the language was a legal sort, and difficult to parse in English or Spanish. After the clarification, she said okay.

Her husband had more questions, though, about the list of lawyers I gave to his children. He asked if they would charge money. I assured him that if he went to see one of the lawyers after today, that he would get charged. He misunderstood me and thought that I meant the free clinic was not free, and that this was all a ploy to get him to pay another $500 for a lawyer. The best I could understand, this had happened to him already when he went to see a lawyer. I sensed his growing frustration. Fortunately, he son and daughter diffused the situation. The daughter seemed bemused by her father. He eventually went to speak to another volunteer for clarification, which he received. He returned to us, and he apologized to me.

“Esta bien, senor,” I wasn’t offended, it was my Spanish’s fault.

“Disculpe, eh.”

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