Helping students apply for deferred action

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In June, President Obama announced a policy called “deferred action” that would temporarily permit certain undocumented youth to stay in the country.        

Deferred action will remain valid for two years and can be renewed at the end of those two years if the policy is still in place.         

“It is a good program, at the root of it, as a first step in the immigration reform process,” said immigration attorney Elisabeth Clayton from the firm of Kempster, Leller and Lenz-Calvo, Ltd.

Deferred action was not an executive order issued by Obama, and nor is it a law, permanent legal status or guarantee of state or federal benefits such as driver’s licenses and in-state tuition. It does, however, guarantee an approved applicant that he or she will not be removed from the United States during those two years, and it also allows them to obtain a worker’s permit.

“Political views aside, I think the deferred action is a good step towards strengthening some of the core values this country is based on,” said senior Momchil Trayanov, a psychology major at DePaul. “Giving an opportunity to undocumented youth who had no choice or say in the matter of coming to the United States to be a productive member of its workforce is great.”

In order to receive deferred action, however, there are certain eligibility requirements an applicant must meet. They are similar to those in a piece of legislation called the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would grant eligible undocumented youth permanent legal status if passed by Congress. An applicant must meet the following: have come to the United States before turning 16; continuously lived in the United States for the last five years; be at least 15 years old when applying; be 30 years old or younger as of June 15, 2012; either currently attending school, graduated or received a certificate of completion from high school, obtained a general education development (GED) certificate or be an honorably discharged veteran of the military; have no convictions of any type of felony offense; not pose a threat to national security or public safety; and pass a background check.

If someone has any criminal history or contact with immigration services at all, it is highly recommended for an applicant to contact a qualified immigration lawyer or an accredited representative for legal advice. Even if there is no criminal background or immigration services contact, it is still recommended to at least talk with a professional since they can help with the application process.

“Immigration law is complex, and while it looks simple, it is crucial to know the full legal scope of the questions on the application and your answers,” said Clayton. “The law is always changing; deferred action is only for two years, so it will be good to have someone to talk to after those two years.”

Applying for deferred action is not the easiest process – the application fee alone is $465, and legal help can have high expenses as well. However, there are various organizations and professionals who can help at low costs, and getting approved can make a great deal of difference in an undocumented youth’s life.         

“It is worthwhile to invest in because you can receive federal and state benefits through the worker’s permit and can live your life without the fear of being deported,” said Clayton.         

Trayanov knows what the fear can be like by seeing his own family member go through it; his cousin arrived in 2001 when his father had a temporary visa. “For the past 11 years, they lived a quite moderate life, purchased a home, paid taxes and maintained immaculate legal and credit records. But, they were constantly in fear of potentially being deported and my cousin not being able to continue his education past high school. With the DREAM Act not getting passed, (deferred action) was the next best thing for a now young adult to start a future as a productive member of this society.”       

The Croak Student Legal Services Office is presenting information sessions on deferred action Tuesday Sept. 18, from 12-1:20 p.m. in Student Center Room 314A and Thursday Sept. 20, from 5-6:30 p.m. in Richardson Library Room 400. “Croak Student Legal Services helps students who have questions about deferred action, including questions about the process and potential benefits and risks, and offers students useful resources of other organizations that can help,” said Director of Croak Student Legal Services Katharine Pena.

The events will also feature immigration attorneys from the law firm of Kempster, Keller and Lenz-Calvo, Ltd. who will explain the application process and provide answers to any legal questions.

“We think the most important thing for DePaul students is their academic success and their academic success determines their future success,” said Pena. “When students have to deal with legal issues like their status, it can interfere with their academic success.”