`Deferred Action’ Program for Undocumented Immigrants Starts
On Wednesday, undocumented youth and young adults who were brought to the United States illegally began applying for President Obama’s controversial “deferred action” program, which offers a chance to obtain a work permit and avoid deportation for two years.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, announced in June, does not offer a path to legal status or citizenship. Rather, it’s considered a stopgap measure that could help more than 1.2 million undocumented individuals.
To qualify for DACA, individuals must meet strict criteria, including having been younger than 16 when they were brought into the United States by their parents; being under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012; and having been in the U.S. at least since June 15, 2007. Individuals must also not have been convicted of a serious crime, and they must be in school, have graduated, or earned a GED.
Hundreds of young adults lined up outside the offices of the Coalition for Humane Immigrants Rights of Los Angeles on Wednesday, looking for more information about how to apply. As the Los Angeles Times reported, Juliana Davila, one of those waiting in line, told KTLA News that the program “gives hope to get a better chance to get a better job, more education. It’s a great chance.”
To be sure, DACA is not a substitute for the Dream Act, a long-stalled federal initiative that would give some undocumented students a means of continuing their education in the United States. Federal law requires that these school-age students receive equitable educational opportunities through the 12th grade, but after that they are on their own. So far, there are no policies at the national level that have been approved to answer the question of what to do with undocumented students beyond high school.
Currently, 12 states have passed laws allowing undocumented students to qualify lower in-state tuition rates for higher education. Maryland’s legislature approved its own version of the law but that was challenged by opponents, and implementation has been delayed until after a referendum is put to voters in November.
In Colorado, Metropolitan State University of Denver announced earlier this month that it intended to offer reduced tuition rates to undocumented students, a plan some critics say circumvents existing law. Tom Tancredo, a former Republican congressman from Colorado told the Denver Post he intends to pursue legal action to block Metro State from offering the reduced tuition.
“It’s clear they’ve talked with a number of people who have encouraged them, but there should be some who would discourage them from the reckless course they’re on,” said Tancredo, who heads the Rocky Mountain Foundation. “Their attorneys should have told them that they’re violating federal and state law.”
In the meantime, the National Council of La Raza, the nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights advocacy organization, praised the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for the speed with which the DACA program was launched
“August 15 is a momentous day for hundreds of thousands of undocumented youth who know no other home but the U.S., and for all the people who worked so hard to give these deserving young people the chance to contribute to this great country without living in constant fear of deportation,” Janet Murguía, La Raza’s president and chief executive said in a written statement. “Our job now is to work with USCIS to make sure that these students have the information and support they need to get this relief.”
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