Does the United States need immigration reform? Yes. Is it illegal to enter the United States without proper documentation? Yes. However, when a child under the age of 16 is brought to the United States by his/her parent(s) without proper documentation there is no illegal intent by that child. Consequently, that child now has an opportunity to live in the United States for two years without the fear of deportation. They also will be eligible for a work permit. These developments are a result of President Obama’s new policy of Deferred Action that was issued on June 15, 2012.
Today I was able to volunteer at an informational forum at where approximately 400 youth and parents attended to learn about the Deferred Action application process. Three local attorneys presented and were available to answer questions regarding the process and documentation needed to qualify for Deferred Action. The criteria is a follows:
- Came to the United States under the age of 16;
- Has continuously resided in the United States for at least five years preceding June 15, 2012 and is present in the United States on this same date;
- Is currently in school, has graduated from high school, has obtained a general education development certificate (GED), or is an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
- Has not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise poses a threat to national security or public safety; and
- Is not above the age of 30.
Today those that attended the forum learned if they qualify for Deferred Action or if they have to withdraw themselves from the application process. Those that qualify were given the necessary forms with the list of documentation needed. The next step is that on Sept. 15 they are to return to the for assistance in assuring that their forms and documentation are complete. A second chance is not given if the forms are incomplete.
Deferred Action is only a temporary reprieve. What is needed is comprehensive immigration reform. The Congressional passage of the DREAM Act, which gives conditional permanent residency to young adults with a college degree or military experience, would be reform. Unfortunately, last year the Republican Senators prevented the passage of the by three votes. The Dream Act gives a pathway to citizenship; Deferred Action does not.
Expertise is necessary in assisting these applicants. There is fear that “notarios” who are unlicensed immigration consultants will charge applicants an outrages fee for the forms and promise them accelerated processing. This would be a scam. Although the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service in Homeland Security states that information will not be disclosed to ICE, can it be trusted? This process is not a benign procedure. The applicants need an attorney or those who have been trained to guide them.
I want to thank the many organizations that co-sponsored this community Service. They include, but are not limited to the Watsonville and Salinas Migrant Regional Program, Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom, Pajaro Valley Cesar Chavez Democratic Club, Immigration Action Group and Santa Cruz County ACLU. I hope that who ever wins for President in November will take Deferred Action towards true immigration reform.