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Program helping young immigrants stay in U.S. legally

March 15, 2013

Local immigrant youth are starting to take advantage of a fast-track immigration program that could successfully net them a work permit, driver’s licence and other documentation.
One local youth has taken advantage of a recent governmental immigration policy change to get legitimate U.S. residency and continue with his education here. Although he declined to give his name, he reports that his experience is “a positive thing” though stressful, and that he is currently obtaining a driver’s licence and Social Security card.
According to the Immigration Policy Center at www.immigrationpolicy.org, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative, effective June 15, 2012, offers deferred action to immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and who meet specific requirements under the 2001 DREAM Act – Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors. “The act removes the threat of deportation for youth who qualify for relief,” the website states.
It also gives “Congress the space needed to craft a bipartisan solution that gives permanent residence to qualifying young people,” IPC said, many of whom speak English as their primary, or only, language, have been educated here and know only the U.S. as home.
According to IPC, people may apply for deferred action if they:
• Arrived in the U.S. before age 16;
• Were less than 31 years old with no valid immigration status as of June 15, 2012;
• Have continuously lived in the U.S. since June 15, 2007;
• Are in school, have a high school diploma or GED or were honorably discharged from the Armed Forces; and
• Have no felony conviction, “‘significant’ misdemeanor or three or more other misdemeanors” and do not “pose a threat to national security or public safety.”
According to the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration Policy Center, if a person is denied deferred action, he or she would only face “removal proceedings” if they committed fraud in the application process, have been convicted of a “removable” offense, are under investigation or arrest for “egregious” crimes, or pose a national security threat.
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the deferred action process costs $465, including fees for a background check and an Employment Authorization Document, a type of green card. Deferred action is granted for two years and can be renewed by eligible individuals.
Only youth who are 15 years or older may apply, unless they are in certain specific stages of “removal proceedings,” IPC said, “in which case they may apply if they are under 15.”
Help is not essential to completing the process, local help, legal or otherwise, is virtually nonexistent, however.
Bishop attorney Tom Hardy explained that immigration law is highly specialized, much as tax law is. Plus, the “laws are always changing” and there has been insufficient need for local lawyers to specialize.
However, Northern Inyo Hospital Language Services Manager Jorge Garcia said he knows of another local 20-something youth who successfully completed the deferred action process within three months, entirely on his own. The youth now has a legitimate work permit, Social Security number and driver’s licence. “It’s not complicated,” said Garcia. “You can do it yourself.”
For people who are seeking help, Garcia recommended contacting Mark Silverman, policy director of the non-profit Immigrant Legal Resource Center, which advocates for immigrant rights and helps people under U.S. laws and democratic process.
Silverman was featured in “Plan B: The DREAM Act,” an el Nuevo Herald article by Jorge Ramos. Garcia said Silverman also gave a presentation in Bishop, prior to the DREAM Act. Silverman said Inyo County residents fall under the jurisdiction of the Fresno immigration office so “it’s a good idea to choose a Fresno lawyer” because they are familiar with the system and to avoid paying travel costs, Garcia said.
Silverman also “emphasized that each person’s case is different, even if in the same family” with another individual who has gone though an immigration process.
For more information, call ILRC at (415) 255-9499 or visit www.ilrc.org, or contact the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at (800) 375-5283 or visit www.uscis.gov/childhoodarrivals.

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