Beechview's Casa San Jose provides legal help after judge allows DACA program to temporarily stay

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The path to her American Dream led 21-year-old Maria Alberto from the eastern suburbs of Cleveland to the Beechview office of Casa San Jose, an immigrant advocacy organization.

On Saturday, Ms. Alberto made the two-and-a-half-hour drive for legal help on renewing her DACA — or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — permit. The Lakeland Community College student’s two-year permit expires in April. She had not been able to renew it because President Donald Trump ended the program, commonly known as the Dreamers program, by executive order in September.

But a federal judge ruled this month that the program must be maintained while Mr. Trump’s action is challenged in court.

The reprieve makes Ms. Alberto, whose parents brought her here from Guanajuato, Mexico, when she was 6, a little less scared that the better life her parents sought for her in America won’t be ended by Mr. Trump and other Republican immigration hardliners.

“We’re good people,” the Madison, Ohio, resident said. “We’re here to work and give our families the best we can.”

Ms. Alberto is one of hundreds of thousands of immigrants who could be deported when the program ends March 5. They were brought here illegally by their parents when they were children. While the Dreamers program does not give them a path to citizenship, those with a permit are not subject to deportation.

Although Mr. Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R.-Wis., say they want Congress to reauthorize the Dreamers program, Mr. Trump this month rejected a bipartisan proposal that would have accomplished that. The refusal of Senate Democrats to go along with a temporary funding bill that did not provide protections for Dreamers led to a shutdown of the federal government this weekend.

A recent CBS News poll found that 70 percent of Americans favor legal protections for Dreamers.

While lawmakers and Mr. Trump behaved at their dysfunctional best, Casa San Jose held a three-hour workshop Saturday to help Dreamers take advantage of the grace period provided by U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup’s Jan. 9 ruling. Two immigration attorneys were available to help with renewal applications and a third attorney was on hand to advise the immigrants on related issues. Monica Ruiz, a community organizer for the group, expected about 15 Dreamers would get assistance.

One of them was Mario Azael Soto, 23, who previously tried twice to renew his DACA permit. His parents moved their family from Monterrey, Mexico, to Minnesota when Mr. Soto was 7 months old. A roofer, he moved to Pittsburgh in May 2016 because the construction industry was healthier here than it was in Minnesota.

Mr. Soto believes the Minnesota attorney he hired for his first renewal attempt never mailed in the application or his $648 money order. For his second application, Mr. Soto, despite advice to the contrary, mailed the money order and application separately. So it was rejected by U.S. Customs and Immigration Services, he said.

He and other Dreamers recently told their stories to U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills.

“I didn’t know there were people like [Mr. Doyle] who would take the time,” Mr. Soto said.

Missy Sorg