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By Kim Tremblay & Amber L. Blasingame
On June 15, 2012, Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), announced that the government will offer indefinite relief from deportation for young immigrants brought to the United States as minors. Young immigrants, between the ages of 15 and 30 years old as of June 15, 2012, not in deportation proceedings will also be eligible to apply for deferred action.
Although this is not the DREAM legislation (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act) that many have been pushing Congress to enact for years, it is a step in the right direction. It will allow many young immigrants to come out of the shadows, support themselves, and use the skills they acquired in American schools in the workplace. The DHS initiative will also provide more opportunities for young immigrants to apply and attend college or university, since many US post-secondary institutes require evidence of legal status for admission. The department estimates that the new policy may benefit as many as 800,000 potential DREAMers. However, many questions remain unanswered as both USCIS and ICE have 60 days to implement policies and procedures for filing deferred action requests.
Based on the results of DHS’s prior prosecutorial discretion initiative, it also remains to be seen whether this new policy will be any more successful for young immigrants in deportation proceedings. The August 2011 DHS memo initiated a policy based on priorities to reduce the immigration court’s overbooked docket. Under the prosecutorial discretion policy, DHS reviewed all 350,000 pending deportation cases nationwide and offered to administratively close about two percent of cases that were not priorities for DHS to pursue. This was a much lower number than anticipated. Thus, for young immigrants already in removal proceedings, it remains unclear whether this new policy will bring about much change.
More positive outcomes are expected for young immigrants who are not in deportation proceedings. Applications for individuals who are not in deportation proceedings cannot be filed until USCIS implements a filing procedure. In the meantime, however, potential DREAMers should consult attorneys to determine their eligibility for the program and start gathering documents to show that they meet the requirements. They should beware of individuals or agencies who claim they can help but who are not licensed to represent and assist individuals in this legal process.
Potential DREAMers physically present in the United States should also get documentation to show they are here from today and until deferred action is granted. They should also hold on to anything to show they were present on June 15, 2012.
Individuals must meet the following requirements to be considered for deferred action:
- Entered the United States before age 16 and not be above 30 years of age;
- Have continuously resided in the U.S. for 5 years as of June 15, 2012;
- Were physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012;
- Are currently in school, have graduated from high school or earned a GED, or be an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
- Have not been convicted of a serious crime or multiple minor crimes that pose a threat to the national security or public safety.
Those who meet the criteria will be qualified to obtain deferred action for two years, subject to renewal for an indefinite period of time, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization if they can show financial need.