Process set for undocumented youthful immigrants to remain in the U.S.
BY GINNIE GRAHAM World Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 08, 2012
8/08/12 at 7:35 AM
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Undocumented youth who arrived in the U.S. as children and led law-abiding lives now have guidelines and a process from the federal government for determining whether they qualify to remain in the country.
Nationally, about 1.76 million youth could be eligible, and between 10,000 and 20,000 of those are in Oklahoma, according to estimates released Tuesday by the Migration Policy Institute.
Requests for the program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals begins Aug. 15.
"This has all the ingredients of being successful, and it's doable," said Doris M. Meissner, director of the institute's U.S. Immigration Policy Program and former commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, during a webcast on Tuesday.
President Barack Obama announced June 15 he was using executive powers to shift the immigration priorities to mirror some of the relief measures included in the DREAM Act, which is a decade-old measure pending in Congress.
Obama's directive calls for the exercise of prosecutorial discretion, specifically deferred action, on a case-by-case basis.
The move will halt deportations of youth and allow for two-year work permits for teenagers and graduates meeting certain criteria. It does not grant legal status or a path to citizenship.
"Deferred action is more akin to a temporary protected status in that it provides relief from deportation and work authorization," said Meissner. "It will require more extensive documentation for a decision to be made for a deferred action. In its scale, it is one of the biggest or the biggest initiative organizationally the agency has undergone for years."
Documents to be reviewed include records from employers, schools, financial institutions, medical institutions and military.
Alejandro Mayorkas, director of the Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the agency will not automatically turn over information for deportation if an action is denied.
"While protecting public safety and ensuring national safety, we are mindful of the fact there are individuals who very well may receive deferred action but might be hesitant to come forward for fear of revealing their undocumented status," Mayorkas said. "To encourage those individuals who could qualify to come forward, we have set forth a confidentiality provision."
Mayorkas said the felony and misdemeanor convictions that would disallow this action include domestic violence, sexual assault, unlawful possession or use of a firearm, drug distribution or trafficking and driving under the influence. Also, included are offenses that resulted in more than 90-day sentences in jail.
"If the case does not involve those criminal offenses and is not a threat to national security or public safety, it will not be referred to (immigration enforcement) except in cases where the Department of Homeland Security deems there to be exceptional criteria," Mayorkas said.
The confidentiality policy could change at any time. Also, information may be shared with immigrant enforcement if a crime is being investigated.
Stamping out scams and prosecuting unauthorized immigration attorneys, called notarios, is also a priority for the agency, he said.
"We are especially concerned about the vulnerability of youth who intend to request deferred action," Mayorkas said.
Several advocates have suggested similar confidentiality be given specifically for employers to avoid triggering an audit. This could be provided from a variety of federal agencies.
"Employers need the same assurances that if they provide documentation for dates of employment for those applying for deferred action, it will not result in sanctions," said Muzaffar Chishti, director of the institute's office at New York University's School of Law.
Critics of the policy have called it political pandering. Immigrants are worried that getting a deferred action puts them in jeopardy if Republican Mitt Romney unseats Obama in November.
"That is a real question," said David A. Martin, distinguished professor of International Law at the University of Virginia School of Law and former principal deputy general counsel at the Department of Homeland Security.
"I'm guardedly optimistic. These kinds of changes - how to use prosecutorial discretion effectively - are sound and make a lot of sense. It'll be hard to come in and clean the deck completely and make radical change. For all the controversy, there are solid behavior patterns being established."
The Migration Policy Institute had estimated in June that about 1.4 million youth in the U.S. would qualify.
This estimate increased with the inclusion of a criteria allowing high school dropouts to return to school and then apply.
About 72 percent of the eligible youth are 15 and older, meaning they qualify now, according to the Migration Policy Institute. The other 28 percent will become eligible as they age.
The states with the largest number of eligible youth are California (460,000), Texas (210,000), Florida (140,000), New York (110,000) and Illinois (90,000).
Of the eligible youth, about 800,000 are currently in elementary or secondary schools, according to the institute.
About 390,000 youth have a high school degree or GED; about 140,000 are enrolled in college; 80,000 have a college degree; and 350,000 dropped out of high school, the institute found.
In addition, 74 percent are from Mexico and Central America and 58 percent are in the work force or looking for work.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
Deferred action is a form of prosecutorial discretion. It is a tool prosecutors can use to drop a deportation case. Immigrants qualifying have their cases closed but not dismissed. That means their cases could be re-opened for deportation if the immigrant commits a crime or a new immigration violation.
Immigrants whose cases are closed are allowed to remain in the U.S., but they are in legal limbo. They are not granted legal status or given a path to residency.
- Younger than 31 as of June 15.
- Arrived in the U.S. before age 16.
- Have continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007.
- Were physically present in the U.S. on June 15 and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action.
- Entered without inspection before June 15 or lawful immigration status expired as of June 15.
- Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a GED, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. military.
- Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors and do not pose a threat to national security or public safety.
Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
- Youth may begin to request consideration of a deferred action on Aug. 15. If filed before that time, the request will be rejected.
- Forms to file will be on the immigration agency's website.
- Fees are $465 for filing. No fee waivers will be granted.
- Once request is made, an appointment will be made for a review and to begin the series of background checks.
- If denied, there is no appeal or review of the case.
Original Print Headline: Undocumented youthful immigrants get a process
Ginnie Graham 918-581-8376