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Free Deferred Action Clinic in Panorama City PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alex Garcia Sun Contributing Writer   
Thursday, 20 September 2012 04:46


Martha Melendrez, 23, a Sonora, Mexico native who came to the United States at age 13.

A month after the Deferred Action Program began, many who applied to the program that allows undocumented youth to obtain a work permit and temporarily avoid deportation temporarily are getting approved.

"I'm excited. I think I will feel truly happy when I have my social security card, my work permit and my driver's license," said Martha Melendrez who recently received her approval notice and today, Sept. 20, will be fingerprinted.

"The process has been fast, which is good because a lot of people are afraid to apply. They're a little bit scared. Hopefully this shows them that it's for real," said Melendrez, 23, a Sonora, Mexico native who came to the United States at age 13.

Melendrez, who holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology, is starting her Master's degree studies in Social Work at California State University Los Angeles. She said she was a little incredulous when President Obama announced the program in June, but now feels she's "one step closer" to the program's goals.

Deferred Action went into effect Aug. 15, and response to the program has been overwhelming. The president's directive could benefit as many as 1.7 million people.

To apply, immigrants must prove they arrived in the United States before age 16, are 30 or younger, have been living here at least five years, are in school or graduated, or served in the military. They must not be convicted of certain crimes or otherwise pose a safety threat.

Applicants must prove their eligibility with documents such as a passport or birth certificate, school transcripts, medical and financial records and military service records.

Each person must fill out an application and pay a $465 fee [$385 for the work permit and $80 for fingerprinting]. Melendrez got a loan from a friend to pay for her application.

She said the cost has been an impediment for other program beneficiaries, adding some organizations charge as much as $400 just to fill out the application.

Free Application Clinic

That's why the San Fernando Valley Dream Team (SFVDT) is hosting a free Deferred Action clinic this Saturday, Sept. 22, at Panorama City High School, located at 8015 Van Nuys Blvd., from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"We're going to be helping people fill out their application free of charge," said Jorge Resendez of SFVDT.

Resendez said attorneys would be present to answer questions people may have, and advising on what documents they may need.

"We know money is a problem for some people," Resendez said.

"Some families may have more than one child who can apply. There's a lot of organizations in Los Angeles that are offering this service, but there is nothing here in the San Fernando Valley that's offering this service for free.

"We're not a big organization like other nonprofits, but this is the second deferred action clinic we organized. Last time we had 130 people, and this time we might have double that."

Put Fears Aside

Melendrez recommends that anyone eligible to apply for the program should put his or her fears aside.

"They should apply as soon as possible. You only get one chance and you should do it," she said.

However, she said they should get all their 'T's' crossed before applying.

"It's better they do it right. You don't want to get anything wrong," she said.

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.

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 September 2012 05:01