Many young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States in search of a new life will remember June 15, 2012 as a new beginning. On that day, President Obama addressed the nation standing outside the Rose Garden of the White House to deliver new administrative changes that would changed the lives of many.
As birds sang in the garden and people watched at home,Obama spoke to the nation and announced that under his administration young undocumented immigrants would soon find hope and an opportunity to be part of the American dream.
Laura A Dahlberg (@lauradahlberg) June 15, 2012
He said young people who came to the United States without the proper documentation are American in every way, except on paper. Obama was referring to the new program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or also known as DACA. DACA is only a temporary measure for undocumented immigrants to work, but it does not provide a legal status.
Sen. Robert Menendez (@SenatorMenendez) June 15, 2012
Those approved for DACA won’t be deported for 2 years and will be granted a 2-year work permit with a renewal opportunity. The program came as part of a bigger plan to grant immigrants a legal permanent resident status, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act or DREAM Act. Those who are eligible to apply for the DACA are often referred to as Dreamers.
The U.S. is known for being a country of immigrants; a country of mixed cultures, heritages, ethnicities and backgrounds, all under the same governing state.
Whether they came here as early as toddlers or adults, and whether they arrived by air, land or sea, as of last year there were 11.5 million undocumented immigrants living in this country, according a survey by the Pew Hispanic Center.
But only 15 percent of them will be able to benefit from the program and gain the opportunity to work legally for at least for 2 years.
Of those who are eligible, only 308,935 have sent their applications and 53,273 applications have been approved.
Marcela Zhou, who is part of the 15 percent, said she applied for deferred action without hesitation. She took the risk of getting denied and even deported, but she said that was a risk she was willing to take. With deferred action, Zhou, who is a 21 year-old UCSD graduate, will now be able to work legally for the first time in her life.
On Dec. 5, Zhou received the approval letter. She is currently waiting for the work permit in the mail.
The process of getting a deferral
The entire process of applying for DACA is overseen by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“Whatever you turn into the government in this case USCIS, they create a file for you,which is an “A” file,” said Felipe Gonzalez, a legal assistant for an immigration law firm in San Diego, Calif. (The “A” stands for alien.) Once your file is created then you summit all the requirements asked by USCIS.
One of the requirements includes providing proof of having been physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012. Those who are having trouble finding proof of this requirement can even use Facebook as evidence says an immigration attorney, Jeff Joseph.
“One of the things you can use to prove physical presence on that date is your internet. Are you on Facebook? Did you post on that day? If so, print out your Facebook posts from June 15, 2012,” Joseph said during a live online immigration forum.
The application is fairly straightforward, but if an applicant is denied there is no chance of applying again, because there is no appeal process. This is why many people opt to seek professional legal assistance. As of Nov. 15, there hadn’t been any denials, according to USCIS.
Fears, concerns, doubts linger among applicants
Before the presidential election, people feared a Romney victory would mean an end to DACA. Mitt Romney’s stand on DACA was always vclear; he was going to end the program for undocumented immigrants. With Obama’s re-election, people no longer had to worry about a change in administration; yet they still had other fears.
“Most people ask what’s going to happen after 2 years and we wouldn’t be able to tell them what’s going to happen in two-years. We just don’t know, aside from the fact that if this continues there is a possibility to renew your work permit,” Gonzalez said.
Immigration experts speak about possible challenges Dreamers might encounter during DACA’s application process.
There are various fears that people often face when applying for deferred action. When applying, immigrants have to give USCIS personal information, including names and addresses of family members. The applicants fear their families will be deported once they provide that information.
USCIS has a confidentially statement that assures applicants their information won’t be turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, unless the applicant is considered by officials to be a threat to national security or public safety.
There are high expectations for Obama’s new term regarding the implementation of a new immigration reform. According to a poll conducted by the North Star Opinion Research , however, most people don’t think deferred action alone will solve the immigration problem, unless a broader worker reform is passed by Congress.