It was a dark and stormy night….

OK, not really. But sometimes Jody Mashek’s job as Immigration Legal Service Director for AFSC in Iowa can feel a little like detective work.

Since the Obama administration began accepting applications for Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) last year, Jody and a team of volunteers have helped over 150 qualified immigrant youth apply and obtain lawful status in the United States for two years, with the hope of renewal.

So far, all of her DACA clients’ applications have been successful. At times, however, a certain amount of creative sleuthing is needed in order to prove a client was in the U.S. by the required date.

Recently, for example, Jody printed off photos from the county assessor’s web page to establish the location shown in a client’s dated photo.

Another of Jody’s clients – we’ll call her Maria – graduated from high school in 2006, so she has records up until that point but nothing beyond. Maria stayed under the radar by never going to a doctor and not working due to a lack of authorization.

Maria has helped out neighbors and family friends with odd jobs. They all wrote affidavits confirming that she helped them at such and such time, but immigration authorities generally don’t accept affidavits. Online evidence, including Facebook and other forms of social media, also are not generally accepted as good forms of evidence. 

Collecting evidence is challenging for immigrants like Maria who entered the country without documentation and tried hard not to be visible in order to avoid possible deportation.

The purpose behind DACA is to help immigrant youth come out of such shadows and pursue education and careers without fear. But what our country really needs – and what AFSC is working for – is truly comprehensive immigration reform that treats all immigrants as full human beings.

As for Maria’s case, she and Jody, metaphorical looking glass in hand, will keep searching for good forms of evidence.