DACA stipend program now open to VAWA recipients, U and T visa, TPS, asylum, and refugee status holders,


By Harvey Barkin

Santa Clara County’s Office of Immigrant Relations (OIR) recently released this year’s New Americans Fellowship application in late February (NAF; not to be confused with the think-tank New America National Fellows).

Since its inception six years ago, NAF provided Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients an opportunity to amplify and uplift the voices and contributions of the County’s immigrant communities. NAF is a paid professional development fellowship.

This year, NAF widens its net to include applicants who are also Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) recipients, holders of U visa (non-immigrants who are victims of criminal activity) and T visa (non-immigrants who are victims of human trafficking), and those granted asylum, refugee and Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

NAF is a County created and funded program and it is not a pathway to legal status or citizenship.

NAF is a full-time 10-week summer fellowship that offers its participants professional development, collaboration with local community-based organizations and various immigrant communities while they create a research and media project that highlights immigrants’ contributions to Santa Clara County.

The goal of NAF is to give its fellows access to County leadership and County departments so that the fellows can experience what a career with the County can look like.

NAF got its start in 2016 when then Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors president and now Sen. Dave Cortese launched the program. The SCC Board of Supervisors invests $200,000 a year to fund NAF.

OIR oversees both the administration and management of the program. NAF offers up to $10,000 in stipends per fellow in order to assist with their living expenses for the summer and the fellowship requires a commitment of up to 40 hours a week.

According to OIR’s Director Zelica Rodriguez-Deams, the program hosts 10-15 fellows every summer. Going into its 6th co-hort, OIR has graduated 59 fellows who are DACA recipients and hope for another 15 this year from the now expanded status categories.

Rodriguez-Deams explained that NAF applicants must live, work, or attend school in Santa Clara County, have one of the statuses previously listed, currently enrolled in higher education, or have recently graduated from a college or university.

Rodriguez-Deams further explained that the program is a way for “the “county to diversify its work force” and a way for the County to increase trust and visibility amongst underserved immigrant communities.

After two years of seclusion (Covid-19 lockdown) and exclusion (Trump’s anti-immigrant administration), NAF matters more than ever to immigrants who bear the brunt of impacts they feel like they can’t control.

Past NAF fellows have been hired by Santa Clara County’s housing, probation, public health departments, emergency operations center and others.

In Santa Clara County, the ideal to be an all-inclusive community is inevitable considering that 60 percent of the County’s population are immigrants or children of immigrants. Additionally, 50 percent of the county’s work force are immigrants.

The application deadline for Santa Clara County’s New Americans Fellowship is March 31, 2022. You can find the application here: www.sccoir.org/naf.