Nonprofit created at Harvard University helping DACA recipients with free help nationwide

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- President Joe Biden recently issued an executive order calling on the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security to take all appropriate actions to "preserve and fortify" Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also known as DACA.

Thousands of dreamers across the nation are hopeful, and one small nonprofit, which began at Harvard University, is helping these students. Many of them are in Houston, like Juan Rios, an architecture student at the University of Houston.

"Since the pandemic started, my parents have been having difficulties financially," said Rios.

The DACA program was established by President Barack Obama in 2012. The policy states that certain people who came to the United States as children and meet several guidelines may request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal. They are also eligible for work authorization.

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President-elect Joe Biden's Biden's is pretty extensive. It includes an eight-year pathway to citizenship for immigrants without legal status.



Rios is in the beginning stages of applying for DACA. The application alone costs $500 and getting a lawyer can cost thousands. However, thanks to a nonprofit organization called Immigration Help, he's getting free, legal help all the way from Massachusetts.

"It warms my heart to know we're helping lots and lots of immigrants across the country," said Fernando Urbina, a junior at Harvard University. Urbina is one of a few students working at the nonprofit to help dreamers apply for DACA.

A lawyer from Harvard started Immigration Help to simplify the immigration process. Urbina is currently helping a couple of students in Houston and he encourages anyone to reach out to the organization.

"Over time, we have helped thousands of individuals at different stages of the [immigration] process," said Urbina.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, an estimated 646,000 people are enrolled in the DACA program and the vast majority of them are from Mexico.

In Texas alone, there's a little over 106,000, but MPI estimates that 231,000 meet all the criteria to apply, Rios, being one of them.

"I arrived at the age of four with my parents and my older sister," he told Eyewitness News during a Zoom interview on Monday.

Rios has been in the U.S. for 14 years now, and he's hopeful that he can eventually at least become a permanent resident.

If you're a DACA recipient and are looking for help, visit Immigration Help's website.

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