DREAMERS: A new U.S. Immigration Policy

As many of you will be aware, on June 15, 2012, the Obama Administration announced a new policy impacting those immigrants in our communities known as “Dreamers.” These are our friends, our families, our neighbours and, sometimes, our colleagues who came to this country as children and are now here illegally. At that time Donna wrote an article in the Sarasota Herald Tribune highlighting what this new policy would mean to these children when it came into force and warning them to avoid “notarios” and “visa consultants.” She also encouraged the greater Sarasota/Bradenton community to get behind this benefit when it became available; supporting young people who, through no fault of their won, find themselves illegal although they have lived here from childhood as Americans in every other sense of the word.

We have been advised of the process and requirements for eligibility. The government will start to accept applications from August 15, 2012. People who are already in deportation have been able to request this deferred action since the program was announced on June 15. This means that the immigration authorities will know that Dreamers are here illegally but chose to look the other way and take no action against them. Instead they will grant 2 years of employment authorization and with employment authorization, a driver’s license is available. It is the beginning of coming out of the shadows.

The Director of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Alejandro Mayorkas has announced that this program will be administered by USCIS which is the immigration benefit division of the Department of Homeland Security. There will be no involvement by ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is the deportation arm of DHS. Family members will not be investigated when children come forward. Also, one of the requirements is that an applicant must be currently in school, a veteran or have a High School diploma or G.E.D. Those of our community who were not able to complete high school will have time to earn a G.E.D. and still qualify. Moreover, and perhaps the most enticing possibility of this program, travel permission will be granted. This is a major benefit allowing people to re-enter the US with the government’s permission, thus opening a limited path to an eventual green card.

Florida is a key locale for immigrants who contribute to the cultural landscape of our community. Let’s help this community get these Dreamers back into the mainstream of our society. If you know anyone – maybe a relative, friend, employee or co-worker who believes that they are eligible to apply, then tell them to get in touch with Donna Scarlatelli.

Criteria and Documents Needed for DREAMERS/Childhood Arrivals Deferred Action by USCIS

According to the recent DHS policy announcement, you may request consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals if you:

  • Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
  • Came to the US before reaching your 16th birthday;
  • Have continuously resided in the US since June 15, 2007, (5 years) up to the present time;
  • Were physically present in the US on June 15, 2012 (the date this policy was announced) and are physically present at the time you make this application requesting deferred action;
  • Entered the US without inspection (illegally) or your lawful immigration status expired as of June 15, 2012;
  • Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a General Education Development Certificate (GED), or are an honorably discharged veteran of the US Coast Guard or US Armed Forces AND
  • Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanour, three or more other misdemeanours, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

To meet these criteria, we will need as much of the following as possible. Some documents may not be available in your name but we may be able to use those in the names of your parent(s):

  • Birth certificate with English translation
  • National ID card
  • Passport
  • Baptismal record
  • Driver’s License
  • State ID Card
  • School Records
  • Automobile Registration
  • IRS Income Tax Records
  • Any Immigration Documents
  • Court Records
  • Traffic Tickets
  • I-94 Card
  • Phone, Water, Gas, Electric Bills or Receipts
  • Bank Statements or Bank Letter
  • Employment Letters
  • Medical Records
  • Payroll Check Stubs
  • Car or Other Insurance
  • Original Purchase Receipts, Money-Grams
  • Rent Receipt or Lease
  • Medical Bills

Important Things to Know

  • You must meet these criteria as of the date you make the application with the USCIS. For example, if you have not in school, graduated from high school, hold a GED or a veteran, then you should register for school now or get your GED now.
  • You must be at least 15 years old to apply, unless you are in removal proceedings, have a final removal order or have a voluntary departure order and are not in immigration detention.
  • Regarding criminal records, you will be sent for biometrics/fingerprinting and the USCIS will then know if you qualify for deferred action or if your criminal history prevents you from qualifying. You do not need to get a clearance from the local police.
  • A “significant misdemeanor” is defined as: domestic violence, sexual abuse or exploitation, burglary, unlawful possession or use of a firearm, drug distribution or trafficking or DUI. Additionally, any other offense for which the sentence imposed was for time in custody of more than 90 days.
  • While you must have been continuously, physically present in the US for the past 5 years, “brief, casual and innocent departures” are permitted providing they occurred before August 15, 2012. These short absences must have been only sufficient to accomplish the reason you departed and cannot have been following any deportation, exclusion, removal or voluntary departure orders.
  • The deferred action application will be made to USCIS, not ICE. No ICE actions will come from these applications for you or your family members, with limited exceptions. Those exceptions include if serious criminal issues are discovered as part of this process, you may be targeted for further ICE action. So it is critical that we know about any criminal background before applying.
  • There will be one application for deferred action and employment authorization with one USCIS filing fee of $465. Our additional fees will be: $500 for the attorney analysis, preparation and submission of the application plus $60 for our database administration program used to prepare the application and track the filings through the USCIS system plus $80 for copies and UPS priority mailing. The total charges including all legal fees and costs will thus be $1100.
  • Once deferred action is granted, you can apply for travel permission, known as an “advance parole.” The travel application will have additional fees and costs and should be given for humanitarian, employment or education purposes. If you travel outside the US, and are paroled back in with this document, you may find in the future that you are in a position to obtain your green card.