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Deferred Action Begins for Thousands of Undocumented Youth PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alex Garcia   
Thursday, 16 August 2012 06:40

The long awaited immigration relief for thousands of undocumented youths became a reality this week, as the government began accepting deferred action applications that would let them remain in the country, and obtain a U.S. work permit.

Community organizations throughout Los Angeles have put together last minute information drives for the anxiously awaiting young men and women eager to take advantage of the directive announced by President Barack Obama a few months ago.

Catholic Charities of Los Angeles, Inc. is also organizing a workshop next Thursday, Aug. 23, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the St. Didacus Catholic Church, located at 14337 Astoria St., in Sylmar. For more information, call (213) 251- 3501.

To apply for the program, each person must fill out an application and pay $465. The process does not lead to citizenship, nor does it give applicants permission to leave the country.

Applicants must also prove they're eligible for the program with documents such as a passport or birth certificate, school transcripts, medical and financial records and military service records.

A decision on each application could take several months, and immigrants have been warned not to leave the country while their application is pending.

If they are allowed to stay in the United States and want to travel internationally, they will need to apply for permission to come back into the country, a request that would cost an additional $360.

The Obama administration announced the plan in June to stop deporting many illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. To be eligible, immigrants must prove they arrived in the United States before they turned 16, are 30 or younger, have been living here at least five years, are in school or graduated, or served in the military. They also may not have been convicted of certain crimes or otherwise pose a safety threat.

Sergio C. Garcia, 35, and Luis Perez, 31, didn't qualify for the program because of their age, but were still lending a hand to those who do qualify.

Garcia is a law student who arrived as a toddler without papers from Michoacan, Mexico. Today he is facing one of the biggest challenges of his life: the California Supreme Court will soon have to decide if he's eligible to practice law even though he has been sworn in, and is fully supported by the State Bar and California's Attorney General Kamala D. Harris to do so.

Garcia is one of five Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) DREAM Fellows who will focus on outreach and application reviews in Northern California, especially in the Butte, Glenn, Sutter, Tehama, Sacramento, and Yuba counties. He resides in Chico.

"Life has been tough for me, always afraid, never having enough money to pay for the things I wanted, especially pay for school, but I have rolled with the punches," Garcia said.

"Now that I am an active 'dreamer,' older than many of those who benefit from Deferred Action, I want to help make the road easier for them. "I know that if we help this generation of immigrant youth, they will pay it forward, they will help our economy and help us get back on the road," Garcia added.

Perez is the second oldest sibling in a family of seven. He is the first undocumented student to be admitted to the UCLA School of Law and the first one to graduate. As the Deferred Action Program manager, Perez will lead CHIRLA's efforts to help hundreds of young immigrants and their families navigate through the process of applying for a temporary immigration relief program many are nervous about.

"All young people should have a meaningful life experience.

A lot of us who are undocumented immigrants are limited to the type of quality experiences we can have because of our [immigration] status. Often we don't take the experience we want or the one we deserve," Perez said.

As to why this benefit became available, Perez replied, "this directive is rewarding students for their efforts, for playing by the rules, and for having the drive to be educated and contribute to the economy.

Department of Homeland Security officials have repeatedly said they're unsure on how many people may apply. In an internal document outlining the program's implementation, officials estimated 1.04 million people would apply in the first year, and about 890,000 would be eligible.

According to the Associated Press, the program could cost the U.S. government between $467.7 million and $585.4 million. It is anticipated the government could collect about $484.2 million in fees.

Criteria to apply for deferred action:

-You came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday;

-You have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;

-You were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;

-You entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or your lawful immigration status expired as of June 15, 2012;

-You are currently in school, have graduated or obtained your certificate of completion from high school, have obtained your general educational development certification, or you are an honorably discharged veteran of Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;

-You have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat; and

-You were present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS.