Between 1.4 to even 1.7 million undocumented students are eligible for this policy.
By LUCIA ESPINO
The U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services estimated about 250,000 applications for the first month of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. So far, less than 100,000 are estimated to have been filed.
Students United for the DREAM Act held an information session to help students understand the DACA policy and application process.
The panel was formed by English Professor and SUDA adviser Mariano Aguilar; Kimberly Rendon, liberal arts major and SUDA officer; and Marisol L. Perez, immigration attorney.
At the beginning of the session, Rendon clarified that DACA is not the DREAM Act.
The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act or DREAM Act (under strict circumstances) will provide a path to citizenship after years of conditional residency to current, former, and future undocumented high school graduates and GED certificate recipients through college or the armed services.
On Dec. 2010, the DREAM Act passed in the U.S. House of Representatives but, in a vote of 55-41, the Senate failed to approved it.
On the contrary, DACA only provides an individual with two years of nondeportation along with the possibility of a work authorization, but the DHS can terminate or renew it any time at the agency’s discretion, Rendon explained.
According to the USCIS, on June 15, 2012, Janet Napolitano, secretary of Homeland Security, announced that certain people who came to the U.S. as children and meet several key guidelines may request DACA.
The official guidelines stated that candidates must:
• Be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012.
• Have been brought to the U.S. before reaching your 16th birthday.
• Have continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007, up to the present time.
• Have been physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making their request for DACA with USCIS.
• Have entered the U.S. without inspection (undocumented) before June 15, 2012, or your lawful immigration status expired as of June 15, 2012.
• Be currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or armed forces of the U.S.
• 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.
Candidates must submit an I-821D DACA form, I-765 application for employment authorization, I-765WS Worksheet, and the documentation to prove they meet all guidelines.
The cost for this process is a $380 plus $85 for biometric services as stated by USCIS.
“One of the major obstacles is fear,” Perez said, “They (candidates) are afraid that if their case is denied then they will be referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).”
The USCIS will only refer cases with a criminal record to ICE, Perez explained.
“Another fear is that the USCIS could reveal their parents or family members’ legal status to ICE, but this is not true,” Perez said. “They don’t ask for family information in any of the forms.”
Perez also stated some states, like Texas, candidates granted DACA could qualify for in-state tuition and a driver’s license, but they will not be eligible for public benefits anywhere in the country or to enlist in the armed forces.
According to the American Immigration Council, nearly half of the potential candidates for this policy live in California and Texas.
Here in Texas, Mexicans are the main beneficiaries, followed by Central and South Americans (including the Caribbean) and then Asians.
Rendon mentioned that SUDA is allied with San Antonio Immigrant Youth Movement and at a national level with United We Dream.
All of these are nonprofit organizations, led by DREAMers and supporters, who are dedicated to promote the DREAM Act.
Most recently they are helping candidates through the application process with the help of pro bono immigration lawyers.
SUDA started in the spring of 2009 with one member, psychology major Alina Cortes, who then spread the word and recruited members by giving out cookies around this campus.
This organization’s purpose is to promote and advocate the passage of DREAM Act by educating people about this piece of legislation and how it benefits others outside of DREAMers.
Aguilar would like for others to “Get involved and realize that DREAMers are productive members of the society.”
For more information, SUDA at: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.facebook.com/sudasac.