by Gaby Pacheco
FLORIDA CITY, FL — It’s been two weeks since a group of dynamic DREAMers, along with their ally organizations, have carried out deferred action clinics in Florida City, Florida.
Located about 35 miles from Miami, FL, in a mainly suburban and agricultural town, hundreds of people gathered outside the doors of the Everglades Community Center at 7:00 AM waiting for the doors to the clinic to open. Inside, an army of volunteers run from one room to the other setting papers, markers, and pens on 12 ft. long tables. They put chairs on both sides of the table, one side for the attorneys and law students and on the other side for the individuals who will get assistance at no cost.
When the doors of the clinic open, there are two separate areas. One of the areas is for those who made appointments; the other is the designated area for the walk-ins.
As to be expected, there are far more people waiting in the walk-in line. Entire families come to help their children apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — mothers with their young children wait patiently for a process that usually takes an entire day to complete.
Saul Aleman, a DREAMer and leader from Students Working for Equal Rights Homestead Chapter says, “I learned I was undocumented my high school senior year, I thought my life was going to end. Now I use that pain to help my community.”
Saul is one of the many DREAMers organizing in their community to help as many individuals as possible who request for DACA. “Through my undocumented experience, I have learned that it is I, who lives in this community, the one that has the power to help,” he added.
Although support and resources are scarce, the human spirit to help is abundant.
Juan Gomez, an attorney with a vast experience in immigration law, has been one of the main drivers behind the clinics. As a clinical professor at Florida International University, he felt strongly about helping immigrant youth through this process.
“If we don’t do this, who will? There are many people that cannot afford an attorney, and they are as deserving as any person,” he said.
The average attorney charges anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 to help individuals fill out their DACA application. Juan notes that “it is usually the poor who gets left behind.”
Working for free during the week and on weekends, he is one of the many attorneys, who since August 15, 2012, when United States Citizenship and Immigration Services started accepting applications, has spent countless hours helping DREAMers through the process.
“The struggle continues”, added Jose Machado a 17-year-old DREAMer who lives in foster care because his mother was deported two years ago. “We hope that the people whom we have served realize that this is only temporary, and the only real solution to their lack of an immigration status will be the passage of a law like the DREAM Act.”
Gaby Pacheco, editor of Latina Lista’s “American Dream” section, is an undocumented American and an immigrant rights leader from Miami, Florida. Since 2004 she has been working on the DREAM Act. Her passion for education and immigrant rights prompted her and three friends in 2010 to walked 1,500 miles form Miami to Washington DC, to bring to light the plight of immigrants in this country, this walk was dubbed the Trail of DREAMs. Follow Gaby on Twitter at @GabyPacheco1