A Dream Not Deferred is a new project developed by VOLS to offer support for immigrant students in high school who are pursuing higher education and legal employment. In this project, VOLS works in collaboration with the Urban Assembly Network (UAN), a nonprofit school support network of 20 non-charter public schools empowering students to succeed in college.
This project is designed to: (1) identify high school students who need legal assistance to obtain, or retain, lawful immigration status; (2) recruit, train and mentor pro bono lawyers to provide legal services to students with viable immigration relief; and (3) provide “know your rights” information to immigrant students, including those currently unable to regulate their immigration status.
The following Urban Assembly Network schools currently participate in the project:
The School for Media Studies
The School for Green Careers
The School of Design and Construction
The School for Law and Justice
The New York Harbor School
Academy of Government and Law
VOLS works with UAN guidance counselors, college advisers and other school staff on outreach efforts to create awareness about the challenges immigrant students face, and to build trust with students who may benefit from the project, encouraging them to seek legal assistance. VOLS also screens students and determines whether a legal remedy exists.
VOLS also works with several law firms to recruit and train volunteer lawyers, and provide individual case mentoring.
The Dream Not Deferred project grew out of our immigration work with the VOLS School-based Children’s Project. Over the past few years, several students who believed they had no option but to wait for a change in the law, eventully regulated their immigration status with the help of a volunteer lawyer.
Pro Bono lawyers can make an incredible difference in the lives of these students, as the two success stories below demonstrate:
Eva and her family were visiting New York in the mid-1990's when a natural disaster destroyed their home. They were provided with Temporary Protected Status by the U.S. government, which authorized them to live and work here until it was safe to return. The conditions remained dangerous for many years, during which time Eva's mother and sister were able to regulate their immigration status permanently. However, the laws applied differently to Eva and she was not eligible to do the same. When Eva was a senior in high school, although she was accepted to the school of her choice, she realized she was ineligible for financial aid. VOLS met Eva just in time. Although Eva had to defer her acceptance for one year, a volunteer lawyer helped her obtain permanent residency within that time by arranging for her to process her visa at a U.S. consulate abroad, before she was subject to the 3 & 10 year bars. Eva just completed her first semester at Howard University, on a full-scholarship.
Michael’s mother died when he was four years old, and his father had left him with his grandparents. Michael's father then travelled to the U.S., where he remarried. Eventually Michael came to the U. S to visit his father, but while here, his stepmother physically mistreated him on several occasions. His father abandoned him again, and Michael ended up in and out of the foster care system. It was several years before Michael's aunt & uncle tracked him down and started to provide him with a stable environment, as well as financial and emotional support. They also encouraged Michael to focus on his studies. Volunteer lawyers helped Michael file a self-petition in Family Court to appoint his uncle as his guardian and to obtain an order of Special Findings. Michael was then able to apply for permanent residence as a Special Immigrant Juvenile. Michael has now completed his high school degree and is working part-time to help pay for college.
Law firms interested in participating in the project can contact Liz Markuci, Director of the VOLS Immigration Project at: email@example.com.
DREAM NOT DEFERRED PROJECT NEWS
On July 10, Liz Markuci, the Director of VOLS' Dream Not Deferred Project, met with 40 very hopeful studentsand parents to discuss Secretary Janet Napolitano’s June 15th memorandum directing the Department of Homeland Security to exercise prosecutorial discretion to temporarily suspend or prevent the removal of low-priority individuals who came to this country as children.
This past year, Liz has been working closely with several public high schools to help students resolve immigration problems so that they can work legally, apply for financial aid, and go to college. So far, the Dream Not Deferred Project has recruited and trained 40 volunteer lawyers, given presentations to over 250 school staff, parents and students, and individually screened more than 50 high school students in 11 schools.
Although many students were found to be eligible for some form of immigration relief, the majority were not. However, Liz told those students to contact her if they heard there was a change in the law. She also kept a list of "potential Dreamers" who might benefit if a law called the Dream Act was passed.
Within hours of President Obama’s announcement of this new policy, Liz started receiving emails and phone calls from anxious students and parents desperate for more information. Many wondered whether this could be the relief they have been hoping for.
In response to these urgent requests for guidance, Liz organized an information session to discuss the eligibility criteria for deferred action and the potential risks of applying for the two-year reprieve. VOLS also developed practical tools to help students gather the kinds of documentation they might need to assess and prove eligibility.
After the federal government releases detailed procedures and starts accepting affirmative deferred action applications later this summer, Liz plans to train more attorney volunteers and hold clinics to match needy students with attorneys who can help them.
If you are an attorney interested in volunteering for this project, please contact Liz Markuci via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.