The Trump administration's reversal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has sparked backlash on Penn's campus, with students protesting and University administrators denouncing the decision and convening a public meeting in support of their DACA-protected students.
The recent announcement has prompted a strong reaction from Penn alumni as well.
2013 Penn Law School graduate Jeremy Peskin has started a new initiative to help eligible DACA recipients acquire the legal assistance needed in order to apply for permanent residence status.
Along with immigration attorney James Pittman, Peskin created Borderwise to make the immigration process more straightforward. Earlier this year, when Trump took executive action restricting immigration, Peskin and Pittman offered to help families making under $30,000 annually for just $1. The standard price for Borderwise's services is approximately $500.
When Trump announced the reversal of DACA, Peskin and Pittman launched a similar initiative, which lists the "suggested fee" of their services at $500, but allows all those who qualify for a family-based green card to pay as little as $1.
"In light of the formal rescission of DACA, and the urgency that this creates, we have implemented a pay-what-you-can policy for DACA holders," the website reads under a section titled "Dreamers pay what they wish."
“As an attorney, and as a thinking person, I, of course, must endorse following all laws,” Pittman said, adding that enforcing these laws is a matter connected to "morality" and "injustice."
He also noted that the majority of undocumented immigrants are motivated by the economic opportunities that exist in the United States.
“I don't like the fact that people come without authorization but it's a geopolitical reality given where we're situated," Pittman said.
Given Penn's physical proximity to Borderwise's office, which is located by Rittenhouse Square, Peskin said they have been able to work with Penn students, who can easily set up an in-person appointment.
Borderwise has also worked with members of Penn to run beta tests on certain projects, such as those dealing with employment-based applications and adjustment of status applications. These programs have not yet been made available to the general public.
Peskin and Pittman have more ideas in the works, including plans to work with the Penn Law Immigrant Rights Project (formerly the Penn Law Immigration Clinic) to address asylum and refugee applications.
"There's going to be a lot of ways we can contribute back to the Penn community," Peskin added.
“We both feel that DACA holders have a fundamental right to be in the United States. They've been in the U.S. since they were children,” Peskin said. “If the U.S. government is not going to uphold that right, we will, to the extent that we can.”