On August 1, the Department of Homeland Security will release information about how, beginning August 15, certain young people who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents can apply for temporary legal status. Although not a pathway to citizenship, this program—commonly referred to as “deferred action”—will give beneficiaries the opportunity to work legally, obtain a driver’s license, and live without fear of being deported.
Last week, I attended an informational session for families at St. Bartholomew Church in Louisville, Kentucky about what the Obama administration’s deferred action policy means. Here are some things I learned at the meeting:
- Applicants for deferred action have to be at least 15 years old and younger than 31 as of June 15, 2012
- Applicants have to have entered the United States prior to age 16
- They must have lived in the US continuously for at least 5 years; that is, they must have entered prior to June 15, 2007. To prove this, applicants can provide all kinds of documentation: school records, receipts, medical documents, car registration, account information from money transfer companies, insurance records, and other forms of proof.
- Applicants must be able to claim one of the following: they are currently in school; they already graduated from high school; they have a GED or are enrolled in a GED program; they were given an honorable discharge from the US military.
- Applicants can’t have committed any serious crimes (e.g., DUI, assault, or worse) and can’t have more than two minor crimes on their record (e.g., driving without a license, as many young unauthorized immigrants are forced to do)
As you can see, a lot of young people are left out by this program. What about the people who miss the cutoff because they are 14 or 31 years old? Or kids who entered just after June 15, 2007? Anytime there is a legalization, some people will inevitably be left out. But this program is a step in the right direction. These kids are here through no fault of their own. Giving them legal status is the right thing to do.