DREAMers: A Reprieve for Undocumented Youth

by Wendy Lau

On Wednesday, August 15, The Department of Homeland Security released the application for Deferred Action Status. The form, entitled Consideration for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals could help over 800,000 undocumented youths in pursue of careers to remain in the United States without fear of deportation.


In Los Angeles on Wednesday morning, thousands of hopeful applicants and their families lined outside Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights ready and seeking help. The Asian Pacific American Legal Center now has regularly scheduled Tuesday and Thursday legal clinics for those seeking help. Both organizations will have immigration attorneys and trained volunteers to assist.  Even though the APALC is known as a regional legal services center, it has opened its multi lingual call center to help immigrants nationwide to answer questions about the new federal program.


Undocumented Youth, also known as DREAMers, face multiple obstacles growing up in the United States. Not only is there a fear of deportation, but also undocumented youth are not eligible for instate tuition. California is one state that provides in state tuition to undocumented immigrants, but even then students are not eligible for financial aid. With limited options for the future, many undocumented youth are left with little hope for personal or financial success.


The new reprieve from Obama will allow undocumented youth conditional residency. As a conditional resident, the youth will be free from deportation and deportation proceedings. The form, known as I-821 is accompanied by a work authorization form.  There is currently no appeal process for applications that are denied, but no applicant or applicant’s family members will be reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement if the application is denied.   Applicants with criminal backgrounds are urged to seek legal assistance before completing the application.


The total cost of filing is $465.  This includes the work authorization form fee and a biometrics fee.  Unlike other immigration applications, there are currently no fee waivers and very limited fee exemptions.  Those worried about the high fees may have hope. Public Interest Projects is in the process of starting a fund that will work with advocacy groups and legal service organizations to financially assist low income, eligible undocumented youth file.  Donations will be dispersed to vetted local organizations through a rigorous allocation process.


The length of the Deferred Action status program is in question. In this election year, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has not given any statement as to whether he will repeal or continue the Deferred Action program should he be elected. As for Obama, he has stated that this is not a pathway to citizenship, but just an opportunity to avoid deportation.


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