(11/20/14 3pm EST) Latest updates on President Barack Obama’s announcement on Immigration

The San Diego Dream Team doing a banner holding in San Marcos, CA on Wednesday 11/19/14 urging President Barack Obama to expand DACA for all.

The San Diego Dream Team hosting a banner holding event in San Marcos, CA on Wednesday 11/19/14 urging President Barack Obama to expand DACA for all.

President Barack Obama has time after time said that he is counting on Congress to pass a Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill that he could then sign (let’s not forget though that his administration has deported the most undocumented immigrants). At the same time, undocumented youth organizers from all across the nation (e.g. check out the Not1More campaign) know that our communities should not and cannot wait. Thus, we have been increasingly urging President Barack Obama to use his executive powers and take action on immigration, and ultimately expand DACA to all undocumented immigrants. What we hoped would have happen even before the November 2014 Congress elections, got pushed back to- today.

Last night, President Barack Obama announced that he will be taking executive action on immigration. Today at 8pm EST/5pm PST, he will announce who is eligible and what type of relief eligible-undocumented folks will receive. Tomorrow, Friday 11/21/14, President Obama will reveal additional details (such as the application process, costs, etc) during his speech in Vegas. Where can you watch today’s announcement? For online and offline (TV channels) options, check out Colorlines’ “How To Watch President Obama’s Immigration Announcement”. Also, United We Dream will be hosting a virtual community gathering to answer questions you may have after the announcement (English and Spanish sessions are both available), sign up here: http://unitedwedream.org/executiveaction/?source=fb3

Please do not forget that the work does not stop with this announcement. As undocumented immigrants and supporters, it is our responsibility to continue organizing with, and for, our communities. As we learned with DACA, no immigration policy is/will be enough… it can certainly serve as a step depending of course on the nature of the policy, but for as long as immigration policies have categories to “include” people, by default- many more undocumented folks will be excluded in the present and future. To get involved, please check out the work of leading national organizations, such as United We Dream, the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, Dream Activist, and also of course organizations at the local and state levels.

For more information on the announcement and speculations on who may be able to benefit, check out:

Estimates from the Migration Policy Institute about the number of undocumented folks that could potentially benefit from the different scenarios that Obama will announce today “Obama’s Immigration Plan Could Affect Millions”

(In Spanish) “Obama anuncia el jueves a las 8pm ET accion ejecutiva para millones de indocumentados”

(4:20pm Update) Just leaked from the National Immigrant Youth Alliance:

White House Details on Anticipated Administrative Relief

My DACA renewal timeline & helpful resources

I recently received my DACA renewal approval and because I know it is helpful to hear about other peoples’ timelines to give you a sense of timing or even hope, I thought I would share mine here.

First, you will find my timeline and afterwards I share more details and helpful resources for those of you preparing your initial or renewal DACA requests!

1) Submitted DACA application: Late June 2014

2) Received my letter with biometrics appointment: Mid July 2014

2a) Biometrics appointment scheduled for: Late July 2014

2b) Biometrics walk-in: Mid July 2014

3) DACA renewal application approved: Early October 2014

My initial DACA was set to expire November 2014. Because it is recommended that we apply 120 to 150 days before our DACAs expire, I submitted my application in late June 2014. The first time I applied for DACA back in October 2012, I paid for legal help. I did this mainly because we did not know much about the process a few months soon after DACA was announced and there were limited free resources to help me fill out my application. This second time around I applied on my own. Knowing a lot about both the initial and renewal DACA application processes, having organized DACA clinics with fellow undocumented organizers, and having helped several fellow undocumented youth apply for DACA- I felt confident and ready to do my renewal application without legal assistance. For those of you going through your initial or renewal requests who may need help applying and resources, I highly recommend checking out United We Dream’s Own The Dream campaign. They have an online tool to help you determine if you are eligible for DACA, a free hotline to ask for advice, and a list of free DACA clinics across the country where you can get one-on-one help filling out your DACA application!

After submitting my renewal application in late June 2014, I received the letter with information for my biometrics appointment two weeks after. My biometrics appointment was scheduled for two weeks after that date (so we are in late July 2014 now). Because of personal circumstances, I knew I could not go to my scheduled biometrics appointment, so I did a walk-in 4 days after I received my biometrics letter.

I then waited for about 2.5 months and just received my DACA renewal approval earlier this month of October.

A few folks have asked me- how long does it take to get an answer about my DACA renewal application? As with initial DACA requests, everyone’s case varies and so there is not one answer. However, it does look like folks are getting answers 2-4 weeks before their current DACA expires.

If you have additional questions regarding the DACA application process, feel free to comment below and I will do my best to share helpful information and resources! Also, check out my DACA-related posts in this blog with more details about both initial and renewal requests, forms, fees, post-DACA personal experiences, and information on applying for Advance Parole after you have been approved for DACA.

“My Un(DACA)mented Life: Experiences of Undocumented Immigrant Young Adults Growing Up and Resisting Through Activism”

On December 2013, I had the pleasure to present at the 4th Binational Conference on Border Issues in San Diego, CA along with my sister Diana Valdivia. Today, I am happy to share with all that the journal article we presented then is now part of the Journal of Transborder Studies- Research and Practice Summer 2014 and is available online as of today.

Selected excerpt: “Our personal stories shed light on the benefits of DACA, but also demonstrate the necessity for a solution beyond the constraints of DACA for those who do not qualify. The implementation of DACA does not bring back those who have been unjustly deported, detained, and who have lived in fear for years. DACA also does not give us back missed opportunities. It does not recognize us as human beings with the right to live a dignified life. Perhaps no piece of legislation will give us back the years we have lived, and continue to live, in fear, stress, anxiety, and under constant threat that another friend, relative, or community member will be uprooted from their world and separated from their family. However, we are hopeful that in being part of the activism and resistance within our communities, we will continue to create positive change and overturn oppressive immigration policies and sentiments.”

The full article is available online at:

Reflections from organizing the “UndocuGrads” conference in San Diego

DSC_0245Last month, on June 7 2014, the first annual UndocuGrads conference in San Diego took place. At the conference, attendees received helpful information and resources for applying to and navigating through graduate, law, and medical school. Our conference aimed to provide a holistic and in-depth look at what graduate school is like and the importance of our communities having access to higher education. We especially highlighted that our voices matter and that we have the power to create the change we want to see in/for our communities. All information/presentations were tailored to undocumented and DACAmented students. In the previous years, GRADD members have organized similar commendable events in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The UndocuGrads conference was not under the umbrella of a sole organization, however, it could not have been possible without the support of many students, professors, organizers, schools, organizations (including GRADD), and community members. In this post, I hope to share a glimpse of the vision and planning stage of our UndocuGrads conference.


My official letter of acceptance from Harvard!

I came to the U.S. when I was twelve years old and have since navigated the educational system as an undocumented student. Most recently, I was accepted into Harvard University for my Ph.D. in Education and will begin my studies this Fall 2014. I like to remind folks that I have not gotten to this stage alone. At every step, I have received tremendous support, guidance, and mentorship from many of you- my community.

(For updates about my doctoral studies, please check my “UndocuPhD” category)

Through my educational pursuits (including research, teaching, and organizing), I am committed to give back to my community. I created this online blog when I began my graduate studies at San Diego State University. In doing so, I hoped (and still do) that I could share with others my experience, as well as helpful information and resources regarding higher education, immigration, and more.

Earlier this year, March 29 to be exact, I took action on something I had been reflecting on over time- Pursuing a higher education comes with many challenges for underserved and underrepresented students given our immigration status, gender, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, class, and more. We all need to do our part in bridging the path between higher education institutions and communities.

I took my idea to Facebook

I took my idea to Facebook

One way to do this over the summer, before I left to Boston for my Ph.D., was to put together the first conference in San Diego all about the graduate, law, and medical school application process and experience, tailored to undocumented students.

And so with a clear vision in mind, it all began to unfold… rapidly.

Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 12.45.43 AMOur planning committee of seven former, current, and prospective graduate students, took on the challenging task of planning this one-day conference (without funds) over a series of weekly night meetings in April and May. Together, we registered over 100 folks from all across California, secured food and beverages, requested information and gear from several graduate programs across the U.S., invited key presenters to join us, and much more.

From organizers, supporters, presenters, volunteers, to attendees, we were (and still are) all committed to bridging the gap between higher education institutions and communities. Organizing, supporting, presenting, volunteering, and attending this conference are the ways through which we all contributed to addressing this issue of access, attainment, representation, and more. We gathered on June 7th ready to discuss with, learn from, and reflect among each other. The space we created for undocumented students- an underserved and marginalized population within and outside of the educational system- provided the opportunity for many to also share their undocumented status without fear, shame, or uncertainty.

We hope this conference set the stage for many more to come, where issues affecting undocumented immigrants will be at the forefront of our conversations. We are also excited to learn that several universities are interested in hosting the UndocuGrads conference in the near future. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions. Be sure to find more information and updates at our official website: http://undocugradsconference.wordpress.com/


When should I renew my DACA?

USCIS has released DACA renewal forms and more details about the process, read more in my previous post “Renew Your DACA!“.

Because it will take time for our DACA renewals to process and there is an expiration date on our current work permits, USCIS advices that we submit our renewal request about 120 days (4 months) before your current period of deferred action will expire. NOTE- If you submit your request more than 150 days (5 months) before your current period expires, USCIS may reject it and return it to you with instructions to resubmit it closer to the expiration date.

To know your exact one-month window period to renew your DACA, I highly recommend using the National Immigration Law Center’s DACA renewal calculator. All you need to do is enter your work permit’s expiration date and it provides you with the exact one-month period that you should renew your DACA.

NOTE- If you miss your one-month window, you can still apply for your DACA renewal. The best time for you to submit your DACA renewal application to USCIS is 120 to 150 days before the date your current DACA and EAD expire. If you apply within this window of time and USCIS delays processing your application, USCIS may provide you deferred action and work authorization for a short period of time until a decision is made on your case.

Renew your DACA!

USCIS announced today the process and forms for renewing DACA!


Who can renew their DACA?

You may request a renewal if you continue to meet the initial DACA guidelines and you:

  • Did not depart the United States on or after Aug. 15, 2012, without advance parole;
  • Have continuously resided in the United States since you submitted your most recent DACA request that was approved; and
  • Have not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

When should you renew your DACA?

You should submit your renewal request about 120 days (4 months) before your current period of deferred action will expire. NOTE- If you submit your request more than 150 days (5 months) before your current period expires, USCIS may reject it and return it to you with instructions to resubmit it closer to the expiration date.

NOTE- The total cost of renewing is $465! Start saving if need be.

For further details about HOW to renew your DACA, additional documents to submit with your renewal application, and much more, please visit the official USCIS website: “Renew your DACA”

If this is the first time you are requesting DACA, visit “Request DACA for the first time

For questions, concerns, and more information about the DACA renewal process, make sure to join United We Dream’s free live DACA renewal broadcast TOMORROW June 6th! Also, check out the DACA Renewal Network.