The Mexican government is helping some of its citizens apply for an immigration program in the U.S. that gives them protection from being deported.
A new story from NPR indicates that Mexican consulates around the country are paying legal fees for some to apply to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. The Obama administration created the controversial program in 2012. It is credited with providing temporary relief from deportation to more than 580,000 immigrants who were brought to the country as minors.
Applicants to DACA have to pay a total of $465 in processing and fingerprinting fees in order to qualify.
That is an obstacle to people like Tania Guzman who works as a part-time personal assistant and baby sitter in Los Angeles. Now 30, she said she was brought to the country when she was only 7 years olld. She qualified for the program but she didn’t think she could afford the fees to apply. While working with a law firm in California, she learned she qualified for financial assistance from the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles.
With that money she applied last October and received her deferred action in May.
“It was a big factor,” she said. “It's a lot of money, and I was struggling.”
Since 2012, the consulate in Los Angeles has reportedly budgeted $250,000 to help Mexican nationals in Guzman’s situation. The consulate has successfully assisted 260 people applying to the program.
Julian Escutia, head of the Mexican Embassy’s consular coordination section in Washington D.C., said the embassy doesn’t track how many Mexican citizens have been helped nationwide.
“This is on a case-by-case basis,” he said. “We are not in the position of assisting all of them financially.”
He said the embassy’s efforts are designed only with the goal of helping Mexican citizens.
“Our main objective is the well-being of our nationals wherever they are,” Escutia said. “So what we want for them is that they are successful and really continue contributing to this country (the U.S.).”
A USA Today story from September reported some states are taking the same approach as Mexico. Illinois, California and Maryland all reportedly have programs in place to help young people apply for DACA.
The state of Illinois has even started its own fund to help DACA applicants apply for medical school, according to Amalia Rioja, Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn's deputy chief of staff.
“In Illinois we're really doing what we can until the federal government takes action,” Rioja said. “We and other states try to do it as best we can, kind of a piecemeal approach, filling in the gaps where we have the authority to do that.”
In August, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives started questioning whether the Obama administration had the authority to even begin DACA in the first place and proposed a bill to end the program.
Escutia said the Mexican Embassy was not going to enter the debate on the constitutionality of the program but said as long as Mexican citizens “choose to apply for it, we are certainly happy to help them.”