Deferred Action: the Power of Our Youth

On August 15th, 2012, undocumented youth from Oregon along with supporting organizations gathered outside of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Application Support Center in Downtown Portland to make history. This is the day when the application process opened up for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, otherwise known as “DACA” or “Deferred Action”.

This moment is so important, so meaningful and so powerful. That day was the result of thousands of undocumented youth from all over the U.S. fighting in any possible peaceful way to be seen, to be heard as human beings that have so much to offer to this country that they love so much. Just to think of that day when I saw the video clips of youth applying with a huge smile on their faces filled with hope and excitement, my eyes fill up with tears. It meant so much to me since I know one of the female youth that applied that day and I know how hard she’s been working to put herself through college and the sacrifices she’s had to make. Undocumented youth all over the country have shown us that “Si Se Puede” if we unite our voices and forces for the good fight.

There is a lot of interest out there, from undocumented youth, their parents and allies about the requirements. So here I share with you what the requriements are which are posted on the USCIS website so you can share it with people interested and/or that have questions:

In order to be eligible for Deferred Action you must:

·         Have entered the United States when you were younger than 16 years of age;
·         Have been in the United States for five years prior to June 15, 2012 (small trips outside of the United States for humanitarian reasons won’t impact this requirement);
·         Be older than 15 to apply;
·         Not be older than 30 years of age;
·         Have either graduated from a high school or equivalent, enrolled in school or are a veteran of the United States military;
·         Submit to a background check and have a clean record without felonies, misdemeanors (other than maybe one or two small misdemeanors), or any evidence of you being a threat to the country.

What Are The Required Documents For Filing Deferred Action?

When you file for Deferred Action you will need to provide documentation that proves that you qualify. To demonstrate that you came to the United States before you were 16, that you have lived in the United States for five years and that you were in the United States as of June 15th, 2012 you will need:
o    Financial records,
o    Medical records,
o    School records,
o    Employment records or
o    Military records.

To show that you are in school, graduated, in the military or were honorably discharged you will need a:
o    Diploma,
o    GED certificate,
o    Report card,
o    High-school transcript,
o    Report of separation form,
o    Military personnel record or
o    Military health record.

DACA means that youth who apply and qualify will not be deported. Instead, they will be able to receive a Social Security number to apply for driver’s license, to get a job, to have access to financial aid for college, etc. What does that mean for a young person? Hugo Nicolas, the first youth in Oregon to apply and be approved for DACA could not have said it better in an interview he gave to the Keizer Times on August 17, 2012: “I’ll be able to take my mom to buy groceries, or take my little brother to his Little League Tournaments.” You can read the full article here.

Although this Deferred Action could benefit about 1.7 million youth, it leaves an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country out of the process. Another obstacle is economics:  the application cost is $465.00, and while scholarships are being created, the cost remains a barrier. There are very specific requirements that need to be met in order to apply for Deferred Action. Those who have had some interaction with the authorities might be barred from applying. For example, there are cases of youth who have been arrested for civil disobedience or who have been in minor trouble with charges that are not deportable cannot apply.

The undocumented struggle is far from over. If you would like to support youth who can’t afford the application fee,you can donate to a fund set up by the Public Interest Projects to help Dreamers with the application fee.

CAUSA of Oregon is organizing informational forums with attorneys so youth and their families can get informed, and if they qualify, can get help from their attorney at a fraction of what a private lawyer would cost.

The fight for our rights continues. We need to stay strong and united.

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