Young undocumented immigrants today may begin applying for “deferred action” status that would protect them from deportation for two years and allow them to work. The new protected status is the result of a policy change announced by President Obama in June.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, up to 1.7 million undocumented young people ages 30 and younger–about 85 percent of whom are Latino–could stand to benefit.
To qualify, undocumented immigrants must have lived in the United States continuously since June 15,2007; must have moved to the United States before reaching their 16th birthday; be enrolled in school, have a high school diploma or GED, or have been honorably discharged from the military when they apply; and cannot have committed a felony or significant misdemeanor.
In addition, young people can prove their identity with passports or birth certificates, any photo ID, school transcripts, medical and financial records, sworn affidavits and other evidence.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has posted instructions on how to apply online, in addition to lists of other documents young people can provide. They must pay a $465 application fee, but young people with high financial need may apply for an exemption.
The change stops short of the Dream Act, which has repeatedly failed to pass in Congress and would have provided path to citizenship for undocumented youth.
Still, the changes are making many young people more optimistic about their futures.
Ariel Ruiz, 23, immigrated illegally to the U.S. from Mexico at age 10 and is a graduate of Whitman College with a degree in sociology. Because he was undocumented, after he graduated he worked one summer harvesting garlic.
“I’m finally able to see a pathway to doing what I studied to do,” he told The Chronicle of Higher Education. “It will be a great source of motivation for students who gave up on education, thinking they would end up picking apples or onions.”
The Chronicle story pointed out that many colleges have not been actively informing students about the policy, even though many of their students are eligible. However, number of groups across the country are offering young people assistance in applying and determining their eligibility. In my region, Catholic Charities of Dallas is offering appointments. The group United We Dream is providing information online.