Undocumented Youth Have Hope

On June 15, the Obama administration announced a new program to benefit undocumented young people in the U.S.  A two year renewable reprieve from deportation and work permits are available for undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. before age 16, are currently 30 years old or younger, and are in school, are high school graduates, or military veterans.  Other considerations will also be taken into account, such as one’s criminal history.  It is estimated that around 1.7 million individuals are eligible to benefit from the program which began accepting applications on August 15.

Although the full ramifications of the program are hard to predict, the anticipated need for legal services points to a new opportunity for pro bono work.  Public interest groups have rapidly mobilized to assist undocumented immigrants in the application process.  Organizations such as the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights have already conducted a large training which had a surprising 15,000 young people attend to participate in one-on-one consultations and information sessions.

Many advocacy groups have partnered to compile resources such as the “Own the Dream” website which answers frequently asked questions, helps individuals determine their eligibility, and lists free or low-cost immigration legal help through an online directory.  Public interests groups have also scheduled trainings throughout the fall for lawyers who are interested in contributing pro bono services via clinics and workshops.

We’ll be keeping an eye on the future of immigration reform policies and how the pro bono community can continue to respond.