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Advocacy Group Expands Services for DREAMers

From guest blogger Kimberly Shannon

United We Dream, an immigrant youth-led network, is expanding its efforts to assist and inform aspiring citizens who are interested in the Department of Homeland Security's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals .

In addition to in-person clinics and webinars, the network has partnered with legal service organizations to create English and Spanish websites—WeOwnTheDream.org, and UneteAlSueno.org—where so-called DREAMers can find information about deferred action and can conduct a free online assessment to see if they are eligible.

The network is also setting up a text-messaging system and has a phone hotline to keep young immigrants and their parents updated and informed about the process.

The network and its partners have held over 50 application clinics across the country since the program began on August 15, and has more planned. Through clinics and webinars, the organization has connected with 8,000 potential applicants for deferred action, according to a press release.

Over 900,000 aspiring citizens could immediately benefit from from the deferred-action policy, according to the release. Officials with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services have said that 82,361 applications were submitted between August 15 and September 13, and the program is now granting its first approvals.

In a national press call held by United We Dream, Mariaelena Hincapie of the National Immigration Law Center said that before the deferred-action policy, many young immigrants were dropping out of school, disillusioned by their lack of prospects, but that now she has already seen "a number of young immigrants who had dropped out re-enroll in school."

Schools could play a strong role in educating students about the policy, as immigrant students are likely to seek information from school counselors and administrators, legal experts and educators say.

Justino Mora, an aspiring citizen approved for a work permit under deferred action, was also on the press call, and talked about his experience.

Mora has been active in the immigrant-rights movement for years, having served in the steering committee of the CA Dream Network, and as an e-advocate at the Coalition of Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. He is currently studying political science and computer engineering at UCLA. He hopes to continue in the advocacy effort on a greater scale when he graduates, and is happy to "be able to say that I can contribute back to my community in meaningful ways."

Multiple speakers on the press call, including Mora and Hincapie, say DREAMers must be politically active to ensure that, regardless of who wins the upcoming presidential election, immigrant rights will continue to progress in the United States.

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