Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY JADE YAN, STAFF RE­PORTER jyan@sun­times.com | @jadelu­ci­ayan

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.

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