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Dreamers Anticipate Huge Fee Increase For DACA Renewals


The fees to renew a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) application are increasing two fold in 2020.

KPCW talked with one Park City DACA student about the impacts such an increase will have on him as he pursues his education.

Junior Enrique Sanchez says he was two-years old when he came to the US with his family. Although he was born in Mexico, all he has ever known is Park City. He went to elementary school l at McPolin, then on to Ecker Hill Middle School, then Treasure Mountain Junior High and finally graduating from Park City High School. He is a junior at the University of Utah studying Political Science and hopes to attend Law school. It wasn’t until middle school when he learned he was not a US citizen.

“I was nominated to a program by my school counselor, Miss Amandola. It’s called People to People. This is kind of where I learned that I was undocumented and that I wasn't able to really leave the country because we had a meeting with my parents where Miss Amandola was, this is going to be a great opportunity for him and kind of where my mom was like well we’re undocumented.”

When Sanchez was in 8th grade, DACA was made available for students who were brought to the US as children. They’re often called Dreamers. In high school he started to think about college and working and at 16 he applied for DACA status. Sanchez feels lucky with the timing of the program because it allows him to attend college, obtain a driver’s license and legally work in the US. Without the DACA status, he says:

“You know, I’m not a US citizen, I don't have a Social Security number. I'm not going to be able to work. I'm not going to you know, be able to apply for different government funded funds and be able to attend college or things like that.”

The price of a DACA application is $495 and doesn’t include the cost of legal help. Sanchez says his first application he hired a paralegal because he had never dealt with legal immigration forms. But it added another $200 to the cost. He has renewed his DACA permit three times now and despite his mother’s reservations, he’s confident filling out the immigration forms on his own.  His status will need to be renewed in the summer of 2020.

Sanchez completed his Associates Degree in Criminal Justice last May. He has another year and a half to complete his bachelor’s degree in Political Science at the University of Utah. He’s encouraged by a recent Utah Supreme Court ruling that will be finalized in January.

“Fortunately, the Utah Supreme Court is going to be deciding in favor of DACA students and that they will be able to practice law in Utah and that’s one of my career goals. I kind of like to take it step by step and so currently like I said I'm doing my bachelor’s degree but, in the future, I would love to do some law school.”

Park City resident Moe Hickey currently is the CEO with the organization, voices For Utah Children. He has worked the last several years to raise money and help Summit county students with DACA applications. He says there are across the board fee increases for immigrants, who he says are typically the least able to afford the costs.

“Pretty much every fee is being increased. You know from a political standpoint I'd say it seems to be targeting the immigrant community disproportionately and these are pretty dramatic increases. It's not, you know DACA is one thing but it's also all the fees are going up substantially and we're not talking 2%, 3%, 5% which is where you normally see government fees go up. In the case of DACA we're talking about roughly a 50% fee increase."

The application renewal fee will go from $495 tp $795 on January 1st.
Sanchez says he feels very fortunate because he knows many younger Dreamers living in Park City who couldn’t apply for DACA status before the program was rescinded in 2017.

“And it’s continued to help me in being able to continue my education and so I understand that there are kids who have it worse than me especially here in our community. And so I'm super grateful for this opportunity but I know that our governments can do better for us Dreamers because we are American in every way, except on paper."

The US Supreme Court is scheduled to rule on the future of the DACA program in the spring of 2020. 

KPCW reporter Carolyn Murray covers Summit and Wasatch County School Districts. She also reports on wildlife and environmental stories, along with breaking news. Carolyn has been in town since the mid ‘80s and raised two daughters in Park City.
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