Back-to-School: Immigration Law Help on Wheels

NYLAG's Mobile Legal Help Center will be parked outside Newtown High School in Elmhurst, Queens, on the first two days of school to help undocumented students, commonly known as "DREAMers," apply for "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals" status.

In an effort to help more young people understand and apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) will park its new Mobile Legal Help Center outside Newtown High School in Elmhurst, Queens, for the first two afternoons of the new school year.

Loaded with experienced immigration attorneys and paralegals, the vehicle will serve as a fully functioning legal services office, providing on-the-spot advice and consultation to students interested in applying for Deferred Action status. On August 14th, the Department of Homeland Security announced the official procedures whereby certain individuals who were brought to the United States as children can apply for this form of relief from deportation, which entitles them to temporary work authorization and other benefits.

“We wanted to educate our communities about the new policy and reach as many eligible students as possible,” said NYLAG President, Yisroel Schulman. “Right now, there is a lot of misinformation circulating about Deferred Action, and many people are at risk of falling prey to fraudulent providers. The Mobile Legal Help Center is the perfect vehicle for delivering high-quality, free, immigration legal services to our target population and circumventing this type of fraud.”

Since officially launching its Deferred Action Assistance Project in July, NYLAG has already received hundreds of requests for help through the project’s dedicated phone hotline and email address. The agency has organized several intensive “DREAM Days” to help these young people complete and file their applications. “The majority of cases we’ve seen involve legal complications,” said NYLAG’s Immigrant Protection Unit Director, Irina Matiychenko. “Assistance from a qualified attorney is critical to prevent these individuals from filing incorrectly and endangering their status.” Examples of less straightforward cases include clients who may have used inaccurate social security numbers, or those who have committed minor misdemeanors like turnstile hopping, underage drinking, or marijuana possession.

Newtown High School was selected as the site for these first “DREAMer Mobile Legal Help Days” because of its large and ethnically diverse student body. Of the school’s 2,200 students, as many as 1,600 are immigrants, 35% of whom are new speakers of English, according to Principal John Ficalora. “They come from 100 countries and speak 59 languages,” he said. “National Geographic once wrote that our zip code, 11373, is the most diverse in the country.“

The two days at Newtown mark the kick-off of a campaign to use the 41-foot Mobile Legal Help Center, first launched by NYLAG last winter, specifically to provide DACA immigration assistance to young New Yorkers at their schools and youth centers. With four private interior meeting areas and the capacity to hold up to 17 people at one time, the vehicle is expected to help hundreds of eligible immigrants in the coming months.

The vehicle will be parked outside Newtown High School in Elmhurst, Queens, at 91st Street between 48th and 50th Avenues, from 2:30 pm – 6:00 pm on Thursday, September 6th and Friday, September 7th. Students and their parents are advised to come early to sign up for an appointment time to meet with an attorney.

For more information about “Deferred Action” visit www.nylag.org/dreamers