Illegal immigrants rush to apply for deferred deportation
Photo: Video by kgun9.com
Reporter: Craig Smith
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Happy and hopeful illegal immigrants came out of hiding Wednesday to take advantage of a new Federal program that could spare them from deportation. The program, called Deferred Action is meant to give a particular group of immigrants two years of protection from the threat of deportation.
The Obama Administration enacted the program after Congress failed to pass the DREAM Act. That proposed law was meant to help illegal immigrants brought to the United States when they were children too young to have had a say in the decision.
The DREAM Act would have helped them become American citizens, if they had good criminal records and had served in the U.S. military or been in school.
The Deferred Action program does not provide a path to citizenship. It does use the Administration's prosecutorial discretion to defer deporting young immigrants who otherwise meet many of the same conditions the DREAM Act required.
Requirements of the Deferred Action program made the Mexican consulate about twice as busy as usual Wednesday. To qualify for the program people who came to the United States illegally need to prove who they are and how old they are. So they’re coming in for passports and coming out with high hopes.
Laura Luna says her parents brought her to the U.S. when she was just three. Of the deferred action program, she says: ”It’s a dream come true. I don’t know what to say, I’m just really excited about it and I hope everything goes okay.”
KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked: “Are you a little nervous you might hit a snag somewhere in the process?”
Luna:”Yeah, I am, because I’ve been out of school for awhile now. I’m just worried I might not be able to prove all the years I’ve been here afterward.”
Ricardo Flores is 19 now, he says he’s been here about 16 years.
Craig Smith asked:”What did you think when this opportunity came up?
Ricardo Flores: “I thought it was great because, it’s a chance for us, that we are not from here to continue with our studies in school and get to where ever we want to get to in life.”
Because the program is for people brought to the U-S as children, having the right documents can be a challenge.
Consulate press officer Isaias Noguez Tinoco says the Mexican Consulate is helping applicants get documents such as birth certificates, “So we are making the request to Mexico to get these documents as soon as they can send it.”
The consulate is very concerned someone will end up disqualified because they made a mistake in this fairly complex process.
They’re working to bring in attorneys and US immigration officials for a program to help guide the applicants.
Immigration attorney John Messing says the program will require the government to plow through mountains of paperwork. The key for applicants is to be able to prove how long they’ve been in the U.S. and be able to prove they’ve been in school, or the U.S. Military.
School records and old utility bills could be one way to prove how long someone been here but producing items like utility bills could be tough for applicants who aren’t adults yet. Messing says, “One of the things they can do is to show medical records of treatment during the time that they’re saying they were here.”
Craig Smith asked: “Are they effectively going to have to disclose the presence of their parents who may be here illegally?
Messing: "No. That is a very good piece of news, there is no attempt to find out anything about anybody except the applicant.”
Anyone with a serious criminal history will be disqualified. The program defines that as felonies, serious misdemeanors, or more than three minor misdemeanors.
Messing says applicants should be absolutely honest and disclose everything. He expects background checks will be so thorough you’ll be found out anyway and may face charges for lying.
As for how soon people make it through the system, we don’t have a firm answer on that but Messing expects some applicants to be approved, with work permits in hand, in time for the Presidential election.