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Deferred Action gives young immigrants new hope
Deferred Action is not a perfect solution by any means but it does give Alex Chavez and others like him hope.
His dream is to be a teacher and give back to the community that has given so much to him and his family.
“I hope to ultimately teach, hopefully somewhere in the Valley,” the 21-year-old Chavez said of the relief that is being offered through President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood
Arrivals initiative. “If I were able to get this permit, I would be able to be a teacher if the program is still around when I finish.”
Chavez is applying for the plan that would grant temporary work permits to many young, illegal immigrants who otherwise could be deported. The process is being handled by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services under the Department of Homeland Security. Officials are anticipating more than 1 million applicants when filing begins officially today (Aug. 15).
Chavez was born in Jalisco, Mexico and brought to the United States illegally by his parents at the age of 3. The family settled in Tulare, where Chavez attended public schools, ultimately graduating from Tulare Union before moving on to Fresno City and College of the Sequoias.
Chavez is double-majoring in History as well as Chicano and Latin American Studies and is on track to graduate from Fresno State University in May of 2013. He’s been interning at OLA Raza Inc., a grassroots non-profit advocacy center dedicated to providing immigration and citizenship services to low-income persons and students.
If not for the generosity of a family friend, Chavez would not be in college or contemplating attending UC Berkeley in pursuit of a teaching credential. He’s not wasted a dime or any time in college, taking as much as 24 units a semester.
“I’ve been speeding through because I don’t want them to pay any more than they have to,” Chavez said. “The reality is that I couldn’t afford to do this without their help.”
DACA offers those who qualify peace of mind and relief from deportation for at least two years. Chavez knows all too well the impact of deportation on a family.
“When I was a senior in high school my dad was deported because of some errors that his lawyer had made,” Chavez said. “It’s very difficult. There is suddenly an absence in your family, almost like a death, you don’t have that bread winner. You don’t have the same opportunities.”
OLA Raza has been helping spread the word about DACA by holding community forums. Nearly 150 people attended Saturday’s town hall at CHMA Comission Center in Porterville.
Under the new program, eligible immigrants must have arrived in the U.S. before their 16th birthday, are 30 or younger, have been living here at least five years, are in school or graduated or served in the military. They also must not have a criminal record or otherwise pose a safety threat. They can apply to stay in the country and be granted a work permit for two years, but they would not be granted citizenship.
Various reports say the plan may cost more than $585 million and require hiring nearly 1,500 full-time new federal employees.
To offset the costs, immigrants will be required to pay a $465 paperwork fee. Initially, no waivers would granted but Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano recently told Congress there would be some waivers “in very deserving cases.”
The application process could take up to six months. Homeland Security reported it could take up to 10 days to scan and file the request. Another four weeks to make an appointment to submit fingerprints and take photographs, followed by a background check that could tack on another six weeks and then possibly three more months before a final decision and work permit is issued.
“Absolutely, I’ve been undocumented for this long,” Chavez said of the possibility of a six-month wait. “I would definitely wait. The time is not a problem.”
California is expected to have the most filings, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
California, Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois are home to 57 percent of the total population of potential beneficiaries, according to the MPI. California has by far the largest population of potential beneficiaries, with 460,000, followed by Texas (210,000), Florida (140,000), New York (110,000) and Illinois (90,000).
MPI also estimates that 58 percent of the prospective beneficiaries ages 15 and older are in the labor force.
About 80,000 of the potentially eligible beneficiaries have an associate’s degree or higher; of them 44 percent have a bachelor’s degree and another 8 percent hold an advanced degree, MPI said.
From the initial pool of 1 million applicants, the DHS has estimated that 890,000 immigrants would receive deferrals in the first year with another 150,000 being rejected or ineligible.
“It is just a piece of paper,” Chavez said, “but that is what stops a lot of us from realizing our dreams. Most of us were raised here and we love being here. We want to be able to give back. This piece of paper will allow us to do what we want to do.”
Call USCIS at 1-800-375-5283 with questions or to request more information on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals process or visit www.uscis.gov.