My Mother, Myself (and like a dozen dead ducks)

My mom just left, after being here for a week, and my heart is so full. My head is also full, with the realization that I am just like my mother.

I could illustrate this point with a million anecdotes, but let’s just talk about ducks. My mom is really into ducks, and when I say she’s “into ducks” what I mean is that she likes to eat dead ones. And somehow eating duck meat has become associated with Devin and me in her brain?

It started when she came to visit us for Thanksgiving in 2013 and we ended up at a tiny Thai restaurant on the Upper West Side on Black Friday.

“I’m going to get the duck,” she proclaimed. After dinner, she said, “That was the best duck ever, ever, ever.”

And now, when the three of us are together, my mom remembers the Best Duck Ever and takes us to a Thai restaurant where she invariably orders the duck.

The funniest part about it is that she doesn’t eat duck meat all the time. When my mom and I hang out without Devin, she usually eats whatever I eat. But when we are all together, eating duck is A Thing. I suppose it’s our family tradition, which is weird because Devin and I are vegetarian.

 

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My mom and a plate of duck at a Thai restaurant, 2017

This year Wisconsin upped the ante on our tradition because Devin and my mom found a raw duck in a little local grocery store in his hometown, where we spent Thanksgiving. They found the duck on Black Friday, and my mom thought it would be a nice gesture to cook it and share it with Devin’s family as a thank-you for hosting us. Except guess what. Practically nobody in Devin’s family eats duck.

So we came back to Madison with a frozen duck and no idea how to cook it. Last night we found a recipe and cooked it in the slow-cooker after a very dramatic duck chopping session (we learned the hard way that quartering a duck does not require cutting through its spine. OK, OK, all I did was read the WikiHow page out loud as far away from the whole process as I could be, but it still feels like something we did together).

Earlier tonight, Devin and I were staring at the yet-to-be-washed slow-cooker remembering our duck adventure, and he said, “You and your mom are a lot alike,” which is exactly what I was thinking.

I mean, I don’t make duck, but there is this beet recipe with pomegranate seeds and pistachios. I have fed it to everyone I know. I make it for Devin at least once a year, even though Devin has never expressed any preference for these beets and would probably prefer that I stopped. But when it is November, and I see pomegranates for sale, I am overcome by the conviction that it is Time for the Beets, and I have to make them. Of course, before beet season, it’s You’ve Got Mail season, which again does not seem to be important to anyone but me, and yet I regularly watch You’ve Got Mail with all my friends. OH. There was also the time that I ended up at a Christmas tree lighting in downtown Portland, singing carols with five of my friends, none of whom had any interest in Christmas trees or Christmas carols, but I was so excited that they didn’t have the heart to tell me that they didn’t want to go (I didn’t realize they weren’t that into it until I asked my friend Alison why she wasn’t singing, and she said, “Actually, I’m Jewish”).

That’s the thing about genuine excitement, isn’t it? It’s contagious. It makes you do things that you might not do otherwise. Devin and I don’t have any interest in eating duck, and we definitely had no desire to cook it. But my mom loves to eat duck with us. She really loves it. And so, in a weird way, we love it, too.

My enthusiasm is definitely not as endearing as my mom’s, and I don’t think I could convince people to do half the things my mom gets her friends to do by virtue of being so excited about them. But I do tend to get excited about things in the same way, and I’m lucky that sometimes people get excited with me.

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My Mother, Myself (and like a dozen dead ducks)

Sometimes

Sometimes I remember something that feels good to remember, and I have to write it down.

Like the time Devin and I rode home from Philadelphia on the Megabus. It was summer. I was wearing a sundress. And the A/C was turned up so high that I couldn’t feel my feet. My eyes were frozen grapes. My goosebumps had goosebumps, which had goosebumps, which had even more goosebumps––generations of goosebumps on all my limbs. I covered myself with everything in reach (my backpack, Devin’s backpack, his button-down shirt), but I was powerless against the cold. And I knew that just outside the window, it was hot. Sunny, sweaty, sniff-check-your-deodorant hot.

This cold was a man-made problem! It could be fixed with the turn of a dial. If only I could get to the driver’s seat… I pictured myself a spy: Kim Possible minus the cargo pants on a mission to turn down the A/C while the driver fumbled with the radio. But Devin napped the whole way back, and I was in the window seat. Powerless.

We got off the bus in Chelsea, which was convenient because we could catch the 2 train right there and ride it home to Brooklyn. The bus dropped us off right at the subway stop, and we started to go down the stairs, but I was cold. I was still so cold, and I knew the train would also be blasting the A/C. I turned back to look at Devin, who was oblivious to the whole thing. Angry New Yorkers scowled at us for holding up traffic on the subway stairs. I yelled, “No! I am not getting into another air-conditioned vehicle! I would rather walk home!”

And Devin, who had no idea that I had transformed into the world’s worst enemy of air-cooling technology while he slept, said, “Sure, we can walk home.”

We could have been home in 40 minutes, but instead, we walked 2 and a half hours. It felt exactly right.

Sometimes

Free Passes

This week I read Dahlia Grossman-Heinze take down rape culture in two posts (one about Woody Allen, the other about Harvey Weinstein), and it got me thinking.

Do you ever wonder what our lives would be like if predatory, abusive men didn’t get a free pass?

I was only 3 years old when Woody Allen’s sexual abuse made headlines. I was 8 when he married his stepdaughter. All of this was common knowledge, and he got to keep making movies and winning awards. In high school, I thought he was brilliant and hilarious. I wanted to grow up to be Annie Hall. Nobody told me that he didn’t deserve my admiration, even though plenty of people knew.

Same with Bill Cosby, who got to host Kids Say the Darndest Things, even though his history of sexual assault was an open secret in Hollywood.
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And same with R. Kelly, who got to release everyone’s favorite party anthem “Ignition (Remix)” in 2002 even though he illegally married a 15-year-old in 1994 and has been accused of raping teenage girls countless times, beginning in 1996.

Even Bill Clinton. I know it’s controversial to mention him in our bipartisan political context, but even the most dyed-in-the-wool Democrats have to admit that he was, at best, a creepy boss who took advantage of unfair power dynamics––both in having sex with subordinates and later discrediting them in the media, long enough for their lives to be ruined even if the truth came out eventually.

There are so many men I grew up admiring only to learn later that they had a history of disrespecting or outright abusing people like me. I think about how their crimes were known and their reputations were untarnished. Then, I think about how they are still out there, succeeding, largely undiminished by their “scandals.” I wonder how many other, younger men are still getting free passes. And I wonder how long it will take for us to stop giving them out.

Free Passes

“Please don’t forget about Zacatepec. Nobody has come to help us.”

Dear friends,
My friend David Reyes and his family are coordinating relief efforts in Zacatepec, Morelos, Mexico, and they need our help. Zacatepec is a town located 7 kilometers from the epicenter of the earthquake. If you look up #Zacatepec on Twitter, you will see photo after photo of a town reduced to rubble and read messages that say, “Please don’t forget about #Zacatepec. Nobody has come to help us.”
Because it is hard to get money and supplies to Zacatepec, our efforts are extremely time-sensitive. David is leaving for Zacatepec on Thursday, so we need to get funds to him by Wednesday (9/27) to buy supplies. His family is working with a team of volunteers, including 40 doctors from San Luis Potosí, in a gym that has turned itself into a relief center run by volunteers.
Our donations will be used to buy medical supplies to provide care to injured residents as well as tarps, portable stoves, and potable water to those left without homes. If you would like to contribute, I can accept cash or checks in person or you can donate online through the following accounts, one is managed by me, the others, by Emily Reyes (David’s wife).
Chase Quickpay: Email me for account information (smoothliminal@gmail.com)
Paypal: Email me for account information (smoothliminal@gmail.com)
I am including photos of the Zacatepec relief efforts that David is helping with in this post. Anything that you can give helps keep these efforts going.
Thank you to everyone who has reached out this past week and asked how to help. I am proud and grateful to call you my friends,
K

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“Please don’t forget about Zacatepec. Nobody has come to help us.”

DACA Renewal Directory

Are you looking for the Illustrating Immigration survey? Click here. ¿Buscas la encuesta de Inmigración Ilustrada? Haz clic aquí.

 

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The Trump administration recently announced that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will be terminated. This means that 800,000 DREAMers could lose their temporary protected status. However, despite the end of the program, DACA recipients will have DACA status and work permits until these documents expire––and some are eligible to renew DACA issuances. If you have a permit that will expire between now and March 5, 2018, you must apply for a two-year renewal of your DACA by October 5, 2017.

Applying for DACA is costly. Many of the young people who have DACA are unable to pay the application fees––around $500––on such short notice. This page is a directory of lawyers and organizations offering to process DACA renewal applications at no cost. It is meant to be a resource for for individuals eligible to reapply. It will be updated nightly from now until October 1.

If you are able to give money to help cover DACA application costs, click to donate to United We Dream’s Renewal Fund.

If you know of other resources, lawyers, or organizations that should be on this list, please email their contact information to smoothliminal@gmail.com

NATIONWIDE/NO STATE SPECIFIED

Remezcla list of organizations offering financial support for DACA renewals.

Momentum Alliance DACA Renewal Fund
For questions related to applying for DACA re-application fee support, please contact jaime@momentumalliance.org.

• UndocuMedia, Inc. DACA Sponsorship
If you are in need of financial assistance to be able to pay for the $495.00 filing fee for your DACA renewal, please fill out this form.

• DACA Renewals Fund
Meridian Solutions established this fund to directly support Dreamers with their DACA renewal fees. If you have any questions or know someone in need of financial support with DACA renewal fees, please email DACA@meridiansolutionsworldwide.com

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• DACA Renewal Scholarships: LC4DACA.ORG

DACA Renewal Efforts Spreadsheet
information about application sponsorhip nationwide, compiled and updated by Alida García

List of DACA Renewal Scholarships  compiled by “My Undocumented Life.”

DACA Renewal Efforts: Funds & Scholarships, compiled by InformedImmigrant.com

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ARIZONA

Phoenix/Mesa

AZ DACA Renewal Drives

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ARKANSAS

Rogers
DACA Renewal 923
NOTE: This event is free of charge but does NOT offer financial assistance for the $495 DACA application fee

CALIFORNIA

Any city (by phone)
California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation is providing FREE legal assistance for DACA renewal applications until DHS stops receiving applications on 10/5/17. Applicants will be assisted by appointment only:
– Every Wednesday and Friday in Sacramento
– Every Thursday in Stockton
– Remote application review/assistance for individuals living outside Sacramento or San Joaquin counties.
Please call 916-446-7901 to make either an in-office appointment or remote assistance appointment. 

Chico
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Eureka
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Los Angeles
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• 
Sep. 27 DACA Renewal Workshop from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at Resurrection Church 3324 Opal St, Los Angeles, California 90023

Please contact Holy Angels Church of the Deaf at info@hacofthedeaf.org if a sign language interpreter is needed.


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Assistance from the USC Immigration Clinic
If you would like assistance with filing for renewal please complete this Google Form to provide some preliminary information and to schedule an appointment. Or you may e-mail us at immclinic@law.usc.edu. When you email please indicate the date on which your work permit expires. Financial assistance will be provided to USC students who need help paying some or all of the $495 renewal filing fee.

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Morgan Hill
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Pasadena
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Perris
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Rancho Cucamonga
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Redwood City
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Richmond
Oct. 2 Free DACA Renewal Clinic at 4 p.m. at 217 Harbour Way, Richmond, CA 94801

Sacramento/San Joaquín
California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation is providing FREE legal assistance for DACA renewal applications until DHS stops receiving applications on 10/5/17. Applicants will be assisted by appointment only:
– Every Wednesday and Friday in Sacramento
– Every Thursday in Stockton
– Remote application review/assistance for individuals living outside Sacramento or San Joaquin counties.
Please call 916-446-7901 to make either an in-office appointment or remote assistance appointment. 

San Bernardino/Riverside County
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San Diego
• 
Sep. 27 DACA Renewal Workshop hosted by Jewish Family Service. Receive assistance from immigration attorneys & DOJ accredited representatives: Free eligibility screening, application assistance, review and mailing. Open registration will be available from 11am – 8pm. to register and for a list of documents to bring, contact Guillermo at 858-637-3046 or guillermohm@jfssd.org

San Francisco
San Francisco will cover renewal fees for its DACA recipients. The funds will be provided through the Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs.

San Jose
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Santa Cruz/Monterey

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NOTE: These events are free of charge but do NOT offer financial assistance for the $495 DACA application fee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Santa Monica
• Sep. 27-Sep. 30 DACA Renewal Clinics for Santa Monica College students and staff. Click here to register.

Sonoma County
• Sonoma County agencies will hold free renewal clinics, with immigration lawyers on hand to answer questions, assist with DACA applications and inform participants how to receive financial assistance to cover the $495 renewal fee.

The first clinic is scheduled Sep. 23 from 1-4 p.m. at Lawrence Cook Middle School in Santa Rosa, followed by another Sep. 28 from 6-7:30 p.m. at Kawana Springs Elementary in Santa Rosa.

Sylmar
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Van Nuys
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Ventura
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Vista
Sep. 27 DACA Renewal Assistance from 9-4 p.m. at Aiming Higher, 1717 E. Vista way, Vista CA 92084 Potential scholarships to cover the filing fees available.

COLORADO

Aurora
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Boulder
• 
Sep. 27 Colorado University Boulder Law School DACA Renewal Workshop from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Wolf Law building. The workshop is open to anyone, not just students.

The next clinic will be at Colorado State University on Saturday, Sept. 23. The next clinic at CU will be on Wednesday,  On Sept. 29 and 30, Chapin and her team will hold a clinic at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. The clinics are open to anyone, not just students at the colleges the clinics are held.

Greeley
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The University of Northern Colorado Faculty-Led Student Support Task Force is partnering with the University of Colorado Law School to help DACA students renew their DACA status. CU Law School lawyers and students will be on campus in late-September to complete DACA renewal applications free of charge

If your DACA status or the status of someone you know is expiring between Sept. 5 and March 5, 2018, please email Larissa Romero-Perry as soon as possible to schedule an appointment with an immigration attorney. Appointments will be granted on a first-come, first-serve basis. All correspondence and appointment times will be kept confidential. (NOTE: These appointments are free of charge but do NOT offer financial assistance for the $495 DACA application fee.)

Westminster
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CONNECTICUT

Hartford
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FLORIDA

Many cities
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Davie
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Doral
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Miami
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Sarasota
Sep. 22 DACA InfoSession and Renewal Clinic from 5-7 PM, hosted by All of Us Sarasota. Bring your first application or the last application from when you applied, your work permit, letters of approval, social security number, passport (if you have one), 2 passport pictures, and a money order for $495. (NOTE: This event is free of charge but does NOT offer financial assistance for the $495 DACA application fee.)

GEORGIA

Atlanta
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Macon
• 
Sep. 23 and Sep. 24 DACA Renewal Clinic from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Mercer Law School on Georgia Avenue, Macon, GA. The application costs $495 plus a $25 postage fees. Scholarships may be available for the renewal fee through lc4daca.org Applicants are also recommended to bring any criminal records, list of records of any contact with immigration agencies, if an individual has traveled abroad, passport, list of addresses since last application and a photo ID. (NOTE: This event is free of charge but does NOT offer financial assistance for the $495 DACA application fee.)

IDAHO
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ILLINOIS

Aurora/Wheaton
• 
Sep. 22 and Sep. 23 DACA Renewal Clinic (free, except for $20 mailing fee)
Make an appointment with one of World Relief Dupage/Aurora’s legal specialists to attend a DACA renewal day. To make an appointment call (630) 462-7660 or email cosorio@wr.org For more information visit worldreliefdupageaurora.org/ILS

Cicero

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NOTE: This event is free of charge but does NOT offer financial assistance for the $495 DACA application fee

 

Chicago

IL DACA Renewal Clinic

• City College of Chicago students are invited to attend this DACA renewal clinic on September 23, 2017, operated by the National Immigrant Justice Center, to get help submitting a renewal prior to the October 5th deadline. Click here to register.

Sep. 28 DACA Renewal Clinic hosted by Comisión Coordinadora Guatemalteca del Medio Oeste

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(NOTE: This event is free of charge but does NOT offer financial assistance for the $495 DACA application fee.)

INDIANA

Indianapolis
• Sep. 23 DACA Renewal Clinic Day (NOTE: This event is free of charge but does NOT offer financial assistance for the $495 DACA processing fee)   Avondale YMCA (3908 Meadows Drive Indianapolis, IN). Register here.

• Sep. 25 DACA Renewal Clinic Day (NOTE: This event is free of charge but does NOT offer financial assistance for the $495 DACA processing fee). Register here.

Lafayette
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West Lafayette
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IOWA

Iowa City
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This DACA clinic is hosted by the Center for Worker Justice of Iowa, which is offering DACA application fee scholarships.


KENTUCKY

Louisville
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MARYLAND

Glenn Dale
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MASSACHUSETTS

Chelsea
• 
Sep. 26 DACA Renewal Workshop hosted by The Chelsea Collaborative and Greater Boston Legal Services from 4 PM – 8 PM. Bring a money order or a check payable to: USCIS in the amount of $495.00. (NOTE: This event is free of charge but does NOT offer financial assistance for the $495 DACA application fee.)

Boston
Sep. 29 DACA Renewal Clinic  hosted by Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition from 9:30 AM – 5 PM at
Action for Boston Community Development
178 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02111

Lawrence
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Worcester
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MICHIGAN

Detroit
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Sep. 30 FREE DACA Renewal Legal Services with Michigan United, Centro Multicultural and LA SED Register and see list of required documents here. (NOTE: The legal services sessions are free of charge but do NOT offer financial assistance for the $495 DACA application fee.)

Kalamazoo
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Lansing
 Sep. 21 DACA Renewal Clinic hosted by the Law Office of Amy Maldonado and Action of Greater Lansing – A Gamaliel Affiliate

Southfield/Farmington Hills
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MINNESOTA

Minneapolis
Sep. 25 DACA Application Workshop, 10 am – 4 pm, hosted by Minneapolis Community and Technical College

NEBRASKA

Lincoln
Sep. 18 DACA Renewal Event (NOTE: This event is free of charge but does NOT offer financial assistance for the $495 DACA processing fee)

NEVADA

Carson City
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NEW MEXICO

Alamogordo
Sep. 28 DACA Renewal Clinic hosted by Catholic Charities of Southern New Mexico from 6 to 8 p.m. at Immaculate Conception Church, 705 Delaware Ave, Alamogordo, NM. This event will assist in applying for application fee scholarships through the Mexican Consulate and the Mission Asset Fund in conjunction with N.M. CAFé.

Anthony
Sep. 23 DACA Renewal Clinic/Application Fee Scholarships 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. St. Anthony Catholic Church, 224 Lincoln St., in Anthony, NM. This event is hosted by the New Mexico Dream Team, N.M. CAFé, Catholic Charities of Southern New Mexico, and the Diocese of Las Cruces. The first 50 eligible recipients will receive scholarships in the amount of $495 to pay for the filing fee.

Las Cruces
Sep. 29 DACA Renewal Clinic/Application Fee Scholarships This event is hosted by the New Mexico Dream Team, N.M. CAFé, Catholic Charities of Southern New Mexico, and the Diocese of Las Cruces. 100 filing fee scholarships will be awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis at a DACA renewal clinic scheduled for 4 to 8 p.m. at St. Albert the Great Newman Center, 2615 S. Solano Drive, Las Cruces, NM.

NEW YORK

Any city
New York Immigration Coalition DACA Renewal Referral Guide
All of the organizations listed here are providing DACA renewal assistance. This guide will be updated on an ongoing basis so check back regularly. If you are having trouble accessing services, call the New York State New American Hotline at 1-800-566-7636 or 311 from within New York City.

New York City (citywide)
• For help with DACA Renewals from the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Affairs, call 311 and say, “ActionNYC.”

CUNY students will receive DACA application fee scholarships. CUNY Citizenship Now! DACA Renewal and Screening Clinics will be held Sep. 23 at John Jay College, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sep. 26 at City College; Sep. 26 at Hostos Community College; Sep. 27 at CUNY School of Professional Studies and Sep. 28 Medgar Evers College, all from 6 to 9 p.m.

• For non-CUNY students, the New Economy Project will provide the $495 fee grants to eligible Big Apple Dreamers whose household incomes range from no more than $30,150 for one person to a $71,950 cap for a five-person household. DACA Renewal and Screening Clinics will be held Sep. 23 at John Jay College, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sep. 26 at City College; Sep. 26 at Hostos Community College; Sep. 27 at CUNY School of Professional Studies and Sep. 28 Medgar Evers College, all from 6 to 9 p.m.

Bronx
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Manhattan
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RHODE ISLAND

Any city
Governor Gina Raimondo announced that Rhode Island will pay for its residents’ DACA Application Fees. The governor’s office phone number is (401) 222-2080.

Providence

FREE EMERGENCY DACA RENEWAL CLINICS
When: From NOW until 10/3/17
Walk-In Hours: M-F, 9-4:30 pm; walk-ins are not available on Wednesdays from 12:30-4:30); evenings and weekends are available and by appointment.
Due to generous funder support, we are now offering FREE renewal for RI DACA recipients.
Dorcas International Institute of RI
immigration@diiri.org * 401-784-8621
645 Elmwood Ave, Providence, RI 02906

TEXAS

Arlington
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Bryan
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Brazos Valley
Sep. 30 DACA Renewal Clinic hosted by Catholic Charities of Central Texas in the Brazos Valley. Appointment required. To make an appointment, please call 512-651-6100

El Paso
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Fort Worth
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Houston

Sep. 30/Oct. 2/Oct. 3 Catholic Charities Cabrini Center DACA Renewal Workshops
2707 North Loop W, Houston, TX 77008

Mount Pleasant
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San Antonio
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San Marcos/Hays County
• 
DACA Renewal scholarships available to residents of Hays county. Click here to apply. *NOTE: Scholarship form must be received by Monday, Sep. 25*

• On Sep. 30, SCOPE is hosting a DACA renewals clinic FREE of cost with immigration attorneys rSeviewing applications before they are mailed to USCIS. RSVP via Facebook for event details. Questions? Send us an email: scope00005@gmail.com

UTAH

Salt Lake City
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VIRGINIA

Arlington
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Richmond
Sep. 30 Free DACA Renewal Clinic, 12 PM
University of Richmond, Jepson Alumni Center, 49 Crenshaw Way, Richmond

WASHINGTON

Seattle
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Spokane

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More information here.

 

WISCONSIN

Kenosha/Racine
• 
Sep. 26 DACA Renewal Help Sessions hosted by CUSH (Kenosha) and Racine Interfaith Coalition. 9 a.m.-12 p.m. and 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Kenosha Northside Library, 1500 27th Ave., Kenosha, WI (NOTE: These sessions are free of charge but do NOT offer financial assistance for the $495 DACA application fee.)

Madison
Aissa Olivarez of the Community Immigration Law Center (CILC) will process DACA renewals for UW-Madison students free of charge. Students should contact her at aissa@cilcmadison.orgto set up an appointment.

Milwaukee
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Sheboygan
Sep. 28 Renovación de DACA – DACA renewal hosted by Voces de la Frontera – Sheboygan from 3-6 p.m. at Mead Public Library 710 N 8th St, Sheboygan, Wisconsin 53081

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DACA Renewal Directory

Illustrating Immigration/Inmigración Ilustrada

illustrating immigrationAnja Riebensahm and I are continuing our project Illustrating Immigration. This time Anja will be illustrating stories from immigrants of all ages! If you have moved  from one country to another, fill out our survey, and/or send it to someone else who has.

Survey in English | Encuesta en español

Illustration by Anja Riebensahm

Illustrating Immigration/Inmigración Ilustrada

A long story about books and shame and dreams for Latinx babies

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I’ve written about this before, but when I moved to the States, the first thing I learned was that being Mexican and speaking Spanish was not cool (unless you were a talking dog that said “Yo quiero Taco Bell.” That dog was everywhere, and everyone seemed to think it was hilarious).

I’d grown up hearing, “El que sabe dos idiomas, vale por dos,” watching Follow Muzzy to improve my English over the summer, and attending a private school that prided itself on teaching every subject in Spanish and English. Everyone in my family spoke at least two languages, and the grown-ups taught us that being able to communicate with lots of different people was one of the coolest things you could do.

In Texas, the opposite seemed to be true.

The public school I went to was starting an English-Spanish bilingual program, but there were no books or materials. My mom was actually the lone bilingual teacher in charge of implementing this program. Her job was to teach all the kids from kindergarten to sixth grade, and faced with an empty classroom, she did the only thing she could think of. She got on a plane and flew to Chihuahua to buy books.

As I got used to living in Texas, it became harder to feel proud of my culture or to speak Spanish in front of other people. Once, at the grocery store, I noticed a White woman giving us a dirty look while I asked my mom a question in Spanish. My cheeks felt hot, and I stopped talking.

On the walk home, I asked my mom if we could speak Spanish at home and English in public. She said no. I asked if we could try to speak Spanish softly, instead of yelling. Suddenly, we seemed intolerably loud, and I wanted to do anything I could to make ourselves acceptable to the people around us.

I wasn’t the only one. At school, students told my mom they didn’t like their “ugly brown skin.”

“Why would you want to have lighter skin?,” my mom would say. “Our skin is kissed by the sun, our skin is the color of cinnamon. ¡Están hermosos!”

She taught us to sing “Ojos Negros, Piel Canela” and march around the classroom to songs by Cri-Cri.

Soon my classmates (most of whom had not learned to read in any language despite the fact that they were in 2nd grade) were reading and writing in Spanish. Their parents could read what they wrote! And their families looked really happy when they came to parent-teacher night to see my mom.

Against my wishes, I was soon transferred to an English-only classroom because the school said bilingual education was only for kids who didn’t speak English.

In my monolingual classroom, I met Latinx children who didn’t speak any Spanish at all. Many of them had parents who spoke limited English, and they seemed to rely on the older children in the family to interpret between the parents and the little ones.

In the past two decades, I’ve met countless families like this, and I’ve thought about how to prevent intra-familial language barriers.

The two things I believe we have to do if we want Latinx kids to grow up speaking Spanish in the United States are the things my mom has always done for her students and for me:

1. Teach them about their culture. Too often, schools––even schools that serve a majority Latinx population––neglect to teach kids about Latin American and Chican@ cultures, so we have to make up that difference ourselves. I once babysat for a family that only played Spanish-language music, movies, and television in their house. The little girls in that family understood Mexican culture despite never having been to Mexico. They laughed at their tía’s jokes and played “A la vibora, vibora de la mar” with their cousins.

2. Teach them to read and write in Spanish. Even when I wasn’t in a bilingual class, my mom kept buying me books in Spanish; my cousin Caren shared the novels she was assigned in school; and I felt really cool when I got older and could read books like Love in the Time of Cholera in their original form. (My aunt Martha Cecilia still buys me a book in Spanish every time she is in a bookstore because she’s that thoughtful.) Through my books, I learned words that made me gasp “There’s a word for that?!” and were impossible to translate. Thanks to my books, when Texas got to be too much, I had a way to escape to places where I wasn’t weird, and my culture wasn’t considered inferior. 

Now that I’m older, I often meet people who say they want their kids to grow up speaking Spanish. I take that super seriously because I know the difference it has made in my life.

I am not exaggerating when I say that being fluent in Spanish made the difference between having a close relationship with my grandmother and growing apart, between being proud and ashamed of who I am and where I’m from, between being myself and being someone altogether different.

That’s why I will always speak to your babies in Spanish if you want me to, and I will always get them books so that they can learn for themselves. That’s why when my cousin Vanessa told me she was starting Sol Book Box, I was all in.

It might seem strange for a childless person to be so excited about a book subscription service for Spanish-speaking children, but I signed up as soon as I could because it is hard to find books in Spanish at U.S. bookstores, and every time I give a book en español to a Latinx baby, I am praying that they get to grow up in a better world than I did.

A long story about books and shame and dreams for Latinx babies