There are many expectations about the announcement of the immigration policy change that would help undocumented students. But there are also many doubts about some of the requirements. In the coming days, as the government releases more information, I will clarify those doubts.
In my column of La Opinión This week, I explain what is meant by "exercise of discretion" and "deferred action," and why every eligible youth should request it as soon as the deadline opens.
Here is my column:
Hundreds of thousands of undocumented students, known as "DREAMers", received with excitement, relief and hope President Obama's directive to cease deportations and evaluate the cases of young people who came to the United States as children to allow them to remain in the country legally. But after the euphoria of the moment, it is important to understand what it all means, who qualifies, how and when to start the process.
The change in immigration policy announced last Friday stipulates that agents of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may use the "exercise of discretion," specifically deferred action, to defer the deportation of young people who are not a risk to national security or public safety.
The exercise of discretion means that DHS will evaluate each case. If the person meets key criteria, they will be considered for deferred action for two years, subject to renewal, and employment authorization, if they demonstrate "an economic necessity for employment". Deferred action is not permanent residency and does not lead to citizenship.
To be eligible, they must have arrived in the U.S. before their 16th birthday; have lived continuously in the U.S. for at least five years prior to June 15, 2012 and be currently present in the country; be a high school graduate or in high school; be a veteran of the armed forces; not have committed certain crimes; not be older than 30 years of age.
Although the changes went into effect immediately, it is estimated that implementation will begin within 60 days. For now, do not send any application to the government, as it will be rejected.
For those who are already in removal proceedings and meet the requirements described above, ICE will immediately begin offering them deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal.
It is important to act. If you are eligible, when the time comes, apply. In the past, there have been people who did not apply for TPS or asylum, making them ineligible for NACARA because they were afraid of giving up their information and being deported in the future.
There is always a risk of future deportation if the law changes. But it is better to take advantage and have legal status now and see what happens later. We should not lose hope for an immigration reform that will permanently resolve the situation of millions of undocumented immigrants.