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Immigration Advocates Want City To Expand DACA Reach

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TWC News: Immigration Advocates Want City To Expand DACA Reach
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A nonprofit claims the city Department of Education is not doing enough when it comes to a federal program that could grant some temporary legal status to thousands of immigrant students. NY1's Michael Herzenberg filed the following report.

Juliana Perez Calle says she loves her life working and living in the United States. The 22-year-old came to New York from Colombia with her mom when she was five.

"I've been here almost my entire life," Calle said.

But she came on a tourist visa, which was only good for less than a year. She was at risk of being deported until last December when she got temporary resident status under a program called Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals or DACA.

"It's a huge, huge relief to know that I can work and I have the protection of having working rights," Calle said.

It’s essentially a permission slip for two years at a time. President Barack Obama initiated DACA about a year and a half ago to give temporary legal status to people who came to the U.S. as children. Since then the program has helped 23,000 state residents. But the city has estimated more than twice that number may qualify in the five boroughs alone.

"It is crucial to do more outreach in the communities," Calle said.

Calle works for a nonprofit trying to do just that. DACA applicants must prove continuous residency from 2007. One way to qualify is to have earned a degree or to be in school now. The New York Legal Assistance Group has handled at least 600 DACA applications, mostly at high schools. But the group's president says the Department of Education hasn't been any help.

"It's been frustrating for us that the Department of Education has not created a large scale program," said NYLAG President Yisroel Schulman.

But the mayor's office counters programs should reflect the needs of each individual school.

"To say that the DOE hasn't done its job I think is inappropriate and wrong," said New York City Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs Fatima Shama.

The commissioner says her office has presented at least 30 workshops in high schools.

"No city in the country has worked as hard as we have," Shama said.

Los Angeles, for one, has streamlined the process, providing online forms for students across the district to get transcripts to help them qualify.

In New York City, applicants must apply for transcripts in person, at the school last attended.

The DOE says it has no plans to change that.

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