Dream Deferred But Alive
Call it a dream deferred.
Tens of thousands of young people who have grown up in the United States but lack legal immigrant status recently learned they can stay and possibly legally work here for up to two years under a policy change announced by President Barack Obama.
For young immigrants already in removal proceedings, the announcement was manna from heaven. But the policy is but a vestige of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) act, a bipartisan proposal first introduced over a decade ago that would have allowed a pathway to citizenship for certain qualified young immigrants.
The questions now for an estimated 600,000 eligible young, undocumented immigrants are who qualifies and what, if any, risks are there in applying for a benefit that could be wiped out after the next presidential election?
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service has spelled out the pre-requisites for the benefits in an advisory on the USCIS web page. Among them are that you:
1. Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012
2. Came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday
3. Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time
4. Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
5. Entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or your lawful immigration status expired as of June 15, 2012;
6. Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
7. Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
In addition, the USCIS has issued an informational flier. The Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition is holding a series of informational forums on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, including two slated for Sept. 13 and 21 in Greenfield and Northampton, respectively. The agency also is planning to provide assistance for a limited number of applicants, with advanced reservations required.
In the meantime, other immigration law organizations, including the National Immigration Project, have issued fact sheets outlining questions, answers and risks related to the deferred action program. Any immigrant who has a criminal conviction in his or her background should strongly consider consulting an immigration attorney to assess the risks. Immigration attorneys, meanwhile, are a twitter about how best to navigate the program and even how much to charge on forums such as ILW.com.
For those living under the radar, though, the question is whether an application will alert authorities to your presence down the road, when perhaps a new presidential administration will change the rules of the game.
For now though, those daring to dream of legal residency and work authorization are welcome to call for a free consultation.