New Haven Legal Assistance, City of New Haven, Somos CT, Junta for Progressive Action, Apostle Immigrant Services, Connecticut Students for a Dream and the Yale Law Clinic Partner to Assist Undocument
(8/9/2012) On June 15, President Barack Obama announced that his Administration would grant temporary “deferred action” status to certain undocumented youth, enabling those who qualify to apply for work permits without fear of deportation for a period of two years. To qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, youth must have arrived in the United States prior to their 16th birthday; must have lived in the United States for at least five continuous years prior to June 15, 2012; must be at least 15 years old as of their application date and 30 or younger as of June 15, 2012; and must be in school currently, have graduated from high school, obtained a GED certificate as of their application date, or be honorably discharged from the military. Those convicted of a felony or multiple or significant misdemeanors are not eligible.
The Immigration Policy Center estimates there are at least 1,280 youth in Connecticut’s 3rd Congressional District who would be immediately eligible for the program, with an additional 510 young students ages 5 through 14 who could qualify in future years. While there are no complete records showing how many undocumented youth currently reside in New Haven, the City believes there could be as many as 2,000 youth who could benefit from the program and IPC is expected to revise its estimates upward shortly.
The Department of Homeland Security has not yet released the final application or detailed program regulations, but is expected to do so next week prior to the official launch of the program on August 15. In anticipation of large numbers of youth seeking to apply for Deferred Action under the program, the City of New Haven, Somos CT, New Haven Legal Assistance, Junta for Progressive Action, Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School, Apostle Immigrant Services, and Connecticut Students for a Dream have partnered to create a streamlined process to answer eligibility questions and assist youth seeking to qualify for the program.
“While this program does not provide a path to citizenship, I commend President Barack Obama for taking this reasonable first step. This program is a small but important step towards recognizing the simple fact that undocumented youth are among the most productive, contributing members of our communities. The only thing that distinguishes them from other children in our community is that at some point in their young lives, their parents chose to move here without documents to pursue opportunities for their families that were not available elsewhere. We should do everything in our power to make sure these students have the ability to pursue their dreams, and that includes helping them qualify for deferred action. Such course will grow our economy, strengthen America, and pay tribute to the values of our parents and grandparents,” said Mayor John DeStefano Jr.
New Haven Legal Assistance has agreed to be the coordinating agency and central entry point for youth seeking to determine eligibility for deferred action status. Beginning August 15, students may call Legal Assistance at 203-946-4811 for an appointment. After an initial interview and preliminary assessment, Legal Assistance will either advise and assist the youth themselves, or refer them to a pro bono immigration attorney or partner legal services organization, including Apostle Immigrant Services and the Jerome Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School. “The whole process will be entirely confidential and safe,” said James Bhandary-Alexander of Legal Assistance.
"Our coalition is committed to providing assistance to DACA -eligible young people so that they can make an informed decision on its risks and benefits and, if they so choose, successfully apply for this relief,” said Sister Mary Ellen Burns of Apostle Immigrant Services.
For many people, the application process will be relatively simple and straightforward, and it will not be necessary to work with an attorney. NHLA will refer those individuals to group application clinics hosted by AIS and Junta. The groups will also continue their outreach efforts to inform individuals about the program and how to qualify.
"We have been working to ensure that we reach as many beneficiaries as possible. It is especially important that we continue these educational efforts once the application process begins in order to prevent the victimization of applicants," said Ana María Rivera of Junta.
Junta organizer Hafid Dumet knew when he arrived in Connecticut as a child from Peru that his visitor visa would expire, but he did not understand at the time what it meant to be undocumented until he sought to apply for college. A high school guidance counselor mistakenly told him he could not apply for college, and based on that misinformation, Dumet did not apply. Pushed by a relative a year later, he applied to five colleges and was accepted and enrolled at Western Connecticut State University. Because he could not qualify for in-state tuition, he was only able to attend school part-time, until Connecticut adopted new legislation last year to grant undocumented resident students in-state tuition rates. But once again, when he was about to graduate with an accounting degree, he was faced with new uncertainty about where he could work without documents. “Fortunately, with President Obama’s announcement, I will be able to apply for deferred action and I will be able to get a work permit,” Dumet said. “A brighter future is waiting now for me. I will be able to drive without fear of the police, and be able to have a social identity,” he said.
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