KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- For thousands of young adults across the country who are immigrants, October 5th marked an important deadline: it's the last day for eligible Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA) recipients to renew their status with the government.
According to data provided by US Citizenship and Immigration Services, as of Thursday, roughly 23 percent of those eligible to renew have yet to file applications.
The UMKC School of Law is one of several places in the metro area that have opened its doors for weeks leading up to this deadline to assist people in filing out the paperwork that is required for renewal. During the four sessions, less than a dozen people came in for help. Legal experts say that could be partially due to fear of coming forward.
"Individuals who hold a DACA, deferred action, are very likely to be nervous about coming to a law school to get some help to renew their application because they’re then going to be coming into a public place and saying ‘I’m an individual who was brought into the United States without legal authorization,'" said Barbara Glesner - Fines, Interim Dean for the UMKC School of law.
"They’re putting their identity out there for anyone including immigration to know that here on this Saturday, these individuals coming to apply for this help may be risking deportation. That’s very frightening, particularly if you’re being deported to a country that you don’t even remember, that you don’t have any connection with at all," Fines explained.
For those who missed the deadline or didn't qualify for renewal, there are several options going forward.
"One is that they can seek help from an immigration lawyer or from those community organizations that are helping with these kinds of issues," said Fines.
"The other thing they can do is political action. They can call their congressperson and senators and tell their story and help their legislatures to understand why it is that they should be permitted to stay in the United States," said Fines.
There are an estimated 3,500 DACA recipients in Missouri and more than 7,000 in Kansas. Legal experts estimate there are 30 students on DACA who are enrolled within the University of Missouri system.
Catholic Charities and the ACLU of Kansas City are two organizations that will continue offering legal aid to DACA recipients and other immigrants even after this deadline has passed.