RIGHT-WING SUPPORTER FATALLY SHOT IN PORTLAND; NONPROFIT OFFERS FREE LEGAL SERVICES ON IMMIGRATION ISSUES
When Fredy Arce learned his immigration lawyer was doubling her fees to renew his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status, Arce decided to shop around.
The 25-year-old Elgin man must renew his DACA status every two years to avoid deportation to Mexico, which he left when he was 1.
And now, besides the basic DACA filing fee of $495, there was that new, higher $400 legal bill.
“It’s crazy to be paying that much,” said Arce, who’s working his way through college without financial aid.
But then his girlfriend found Immigrants Like Us, a nonprofit group, on Facebook. Arce got in touch and, with their free service, renewed his DACA status for just the filing fee. Started by two lawyers, and supported by grants and donations, Immigrants Like Us aims to do “90% of the work that lawyers do,” said co-founder Jonathan Petts.
He compared their approach to online systems for filing tax returns. Immigrants Like Us has a similar automated system to help people complete complicated immigration forms. People answer a series of questions, and the answers are used to generate a completed application.
Lawyers then review the application for anything that might hinder its approval.
On its website, Immigrants Like Us emphasizes it is not a law firm and does not provide legal advice.
“Our role is to help people fill out their applications and to review [the application] to make sure it looks good,” Petts said.
This means the organization doesn’t need an accredited representative on the team — that is, someone recognized by the Department of Justice as able to provide immigration legal services. Still, Immigrants Like Us plans to hire one.
“Even though it’s not necessary, there’s a prestige benefit,” Petts said. It hasn’t happened yet because “we’re a very small team with limited resources.”
While people can fill out an application on their own, the risk of being declined is high. According to co-founder Ben Jackson, this is often due to small mistakes, such as leaving a box blank instead of putting “N/A.” Jackson said everyone they’ve worked with so far has had their application approved.
Before working with the nonprofit, though, applicants answer a few questions online to spot any complicating factors that would require them to use an immigration lawyer. That includes first-time DACA applicants.
The organization covers naturalization services, DACA renewals and green card applications nationwide, working primarily online.
In August, the filing fees for several common immigration applications were more than doubled by the Trump administration. Applying for U.S. citizenship, for example, now costs $1,160, up from $640 — an 81% jump.
Most applicants still must pay standard immigration filing fees, though they could qualify for a fee waiver. Immigrants Like Us can help prepare fee waiver applications and is also building a network of other organizations offering grants.
Arce at first felt “a little out of my comfort zone” submitting the form by himself. Still, he said, the process was quick, and he would use Immigrants Like Us again.
The organization was created in November 2019 by the Boston-based Petts and Jackson, a law school student in Chicago. The two are united in their aim to make parts of their profession redundant through technology.
Immigrants Like Us is partly based on Petts’ experience starting the tech nonprofit Upsolve, which helps people through the often expensive process of filing for bankruptcy.
Both founders aim to “as quickly as possible step back and bring immigrants forward,” said Jackson, and build an organization that “reflect[s] the users we’re trying to help.”
In this vein, their director of outreach is
Harvard student Fernando Urbina, who was born in Chicago and whose mother emigrated from Mexico.
“She went through a very complicated naturalization process,” Urbina said of his mother.
“I remember she would spend hours studying and on top of that filling out [forms],” said Urbina. This made him realize he wanted “to make sure that these services are as accessible and as streamlined as possible.”
The nonprofit hopes to expand its work to help lawyers working with asylum seekers, as well as people escaping crime or who were brought to the United States through human trafficking.
Immigrants Like Us also provides written resources applicants can use to determine their answers to specific questions, such as how to prove relationship to a half-sibling.
PORTLAND, Ore. — The mayor of Portland, Oregon, and President Donald Trump engaged in a real-time argument Sunday as the president sent a flurry of critical tweets about Ted Wheeler as the mayor was holding a press conference about the fatal shooting of a right-wing supporter in his city the night before.
After Trump called Wheeler, a Democrat, a “fool” and blamed him for allowing violence to proliferate in the liberal city, the visibly angry mayor lashed out at the president, addressing him in the first person through the TV cameras.
“That’s classic Trump. Mr. President, how can you think that a comment like that, if you’re watching this, is in any way helpful? It’s an aggressive stance, it is not collaborative. I certainly reached out, I believe in a collaborative manner, by saying earlier that you need to do your part and I need to do my part and then we both need to be held accountable,” Wheeler said.
“Let’s work together. Wouldn’t that be a message? Donald Trump and Ted Wheeler working together to help move this country forward. Why don’t we try that for a change?”
The testy news conference followed a chaotic and volatile 24 hours in Portland that began when a caravan of about 600 vehicles packed with Trump supporters drove through Portland and was met with counterprotesters. Skirmishes broke out between the groups and, about 15 minutes after the caravan left the city, a supporter of the right-wing group Patriot Prayer was fatally shot.
Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson identified the victim as Aaron “Jay” Danielson. He called the victim a “good friend” but provided no further details. Danielson apparently also went by the name Jay Bishop, according to Patriot Prayer’s Facebook page.
“We love Jay and he had such a huge heart. God bless him and the life he lived,” Gibson said in a Facebook post.
Trump retweeted the victim’s name and wrote, “Rest in peace Jay!”
It wasn’t clear if the shooting was related to the clashes between Trump supporters and counterprotesters in Portland, which has become a flashpoint in the national Black Lives Matter protests since George Floyd was killed in May and an increasing centerpiece in Trump’s law-and-order reelection campaign theme.
Trump and other speakers at last week’s Republican National Convention evoked a violent, dystopian future if Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden wins in November and pointed to Portland as a cautionary tale for what would be in store for Americans.
Police have released little information, and Chief Chuck Lovell said Sunday that investigators are still gathering evidence, including surveillance video from businesses. Earlier Sunday, the agency released a plea for any information related to the killing, including videos, photos or eyewitness accounts.
Patriot Prayer is based in Washington state and was founded in 2016. Since early 2017, its supporters have been periodically coming to Portland to hold rallies for Trump, ratcheting up tensions in the liberal city long before the national outrage over Floyd’s death sparked more than three months of protests here.
Portland has seen nearly 100 consecutive nights of Black Lives Matter protests and many have ended with vandalism to federal and city property, including police precincts, a county jail, the federal courthouse and City Hall. In July, Trump sent more than 100 federal agents from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to safeguard federal property — a move that instead reinvigorated the protests.
Immigrants Like Us helps people fill out complicated immigration forms.
Emergency crews treat a man who was shot and later died late Saturday in Portland, Ore.