[Editor’s Note: Today’s guest is Vanna Slaughter, LCSW, Division Director for Catholic Charities of Dallas, Immigration and Legal Services. In the recent months and weeks, Catholic Charities of Dallas has been inundated with potential DACA candidates. Today Ms. Slaughter shares with us some of her organization’s successes in managing this process.]
1. Tell us what it’s been like for the past month in terms of the flow of individuals seeking DACA assistance at CC of Dallas?
Since August 15, 2012 the "flow" of people seeking our help for DACA assistance has been enormous. Prior to August 15, immediately after the June 15th announcement, we began hosting weekly "DACA Information Sessions" every Thursday at 1:00 pm. During these information sessions, we established relationships with the prospective DACA applicants and their parents by answering questions about the latest information we had gleaned each week. Each weekly audience doubled in size. By the end of our 8th Information Session, we had to physically separate the attendees because our conference rooms were at capacity. Our groups were divided into English proficient and Spanish proficient groups and our sessions ended up taking three hours instead of one hour. This process though, helped to cement our credibility and trust with the community.
As a result of the hundreds of relationships we established during these DACA Information Sessions, our program has been absolutely inundated by potential DACA applicants (and their families) since the beginning of the application period on August 15. Not knowing how long this demand would continue, we increased our hiring in order to provide critical support services.
2. Why was it so important for CC of Dallas to have an efficient, organized approach to managing the flow of DACA clients?
It has been absolutely essential for us to have the most streamlined approached possible to respond to the high volume of clients (we’re talking hundreds of clients) seeking our DACA assistance. We reached so many potential DACA applicants and their families during our initial eight-weeks of information sessions. It was critical to our credibility with these young people and their families to have a service delivery system in place that was efficient, organized and technologically "current". We used the EDGE Immigration Case Management’s client interface, which has significantly resonated with DACA applicants greatly. It’s improved our ability to confidentially communicate with them about their cases.
3. How important is it for your organization to use technology in helping to streamline the management of your workflow?
During the first week of our DACA application processing, we utilized primarily physical forms completed by hand. This process was very labor intensive and required our staff to remain working until 8:00 pm each night. Thankfully, we were able to implement technology to soon assist us in automating much of the process. Combined with our case management system, we were very excited to see our processes flourish such that we could help even more DACA clients.
4. To critics who claim that DACA individuals should just file on their own without any legal assistance, what is your response?
With a month's worth of DACA experience behind us now, we believe more strongly than before that the DACA application process is not one to be taken casually. Many potential DACA applicants have issues in their history that, if fully vetted by USCIS, could possibly have serious ramifications for them. We have also experienced potential applicants who have unusual travel histories or entries and departures to the U.S. that, at this point in time, we are not sure how USCIS will interpret.
5. What are some of the biggest concerns that you’ve seen so far coming from DACA clients?
In the order of frequency, the following are issues that we are unsure how USCIS will adjudicate:
i. Multiple truancies;
ii. Multiple traffic offenses;
iii. Outstanding (unpaid) traffic citations and whether citations should be paid prior to applying for DACA;
iv. Initial entries that occurred before their 16th birthday but departures abroad that occurred after their 16th birthdays;
v. Definition of "significant" misdemeanor;
vi. The standard for "proof of physical presence on 6-15-12"; and,
vii. Whether or not to include FAFSA applications and financial aid awards.
6. Where do you see the future of DACA after the November elections?
I have heard many counterparts comment that the demand will surge again after the November elections but not many parents or their DACA children have expressed major concern on this issue, at least not yet in deciding to apply now or later.
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We’d like to thank Ms. Slaughter for sharing her DACA experience with us today. It’s evident that planning in advance, having a process in place, and utilizing the most cutting-edge technology which clients appreciate has helped Catholic Charities of Dallas provide a valuable service to the community. You can reach Ms. Vanna Slaughter at the Catholic Charities of Dallas, Inc. online to obtain more information about their immigration and legal services or read their online blog here.