By Bert Eljera
LAS VEGAS – Astrid Silva will join hundreds of thousands of other undocumented young immigrants across the country in taking their first step toward legalizing their stay, and perhaps opening a path to U.S. citizenship.
Silva, a resident of Las Vegas, is expected to apply for the Obama administration’s “deferred action” program, which will give two-year work permits to some young illegal immigrants.
The Department of Homeland Security will start accepting applications Wednesday, Aug. 15, in offices across the country, including in Las Vegas. The fee is $465 per application.
” Young people who were brought to this country through no fault of their own and go to college or serve in the military should be able to gain a path to legal status, ” Silva said in a recent event.
According to some estimates, as many as 937,000 people brought here as children might immediately qualify for the program.
Another 426,000 age 15 and under could, too, if the program remains in place, according to the Immigration Policy Center. The states with the highest number of likely recipients are California, Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois.
On June 15 this year, President Obama signed by Executive Order the program, named Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a take-off the “Dream Act, ” which has failed to pass the U.S. Congress.
The Development Relief and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, was a bipartisan legislation, voted in 2007 and 2010, but failed to muster 60 votes, prompting Obama to issue the executive order.
It was met with derision from Republicans, who called it an election-year gimmick, but joy by those who benefit from the legislation.
These young people, who call themselves DREAMers, like Silva, have banded together to produce websites and created an Internet presence to further their cause.
“I am so excited that very soon, I will be able to work, drive and do so many of the things that a lot of people in America take for granted,” said Mandeep Chahal, writing in one of those DREAMer websites, Spark Action. “But I also know that there is much work still to be done.”
Among those who have received assistance was Akiko Aspillaga, a member of ASPIRE – Asian Students Promoting Immigrant Rights through Education.
“We did not come here to be illegal or to break the law. To be caged up, to be told we have to tell lies and keep quiet about our status — we can’t do this anymore,” Aspillaga said.
The DREAMers cause received tremendous publicity when Jose Antonio Vargas, an undocumented, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist of the New York Times, who wrote about his journey in a Time cover story.
Ironically, Vargas can not avail of the relief himself because he is 31 years old.
According to the Asian Pacific American Legal Center in Los Angeles, the eligibility requirements for deferred action are as follows:
- Have come to the United States under the age of 16;
- Have continuously resided in the United States for 5 years preceding the date of President Obama’s announcement (June 15, 2012) and are present in the United States;
- Currently be in school, have graduated high school, or obtained a general education development certificate, or are honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
- Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;
- Be 30 years of age or younger.
Immigrants who think they may qualify for such relief can contact the Los Angeles-based APALC for questions at (888) 349-9695 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, APALC can provide assistance in the following languages:
Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese) – (800) 520-2356
Khmer – (800) 867-3126
Korean – (800) 867-3126
Thai – (800) 914-9583
Vietnamese – (800) 267-7395
Immigrants can also contact the San Francisco-based Asian Law Caucus at (415) 896-1701 and email@example.com.
Follow Bert Eljera on Twitter @vegaspinoy60, on Facebook on http://www.facebook.com/BertEljera or at http://examiner.com/asianamerican-politics-in-las-vegas/bert-eljera
- Young immigrants to apply for Dream Act protection Wednesday – Washington Post (washingtonpost.com)
- ‘Administrative Dream Act’ begins today (mysanantonio.com)
- Young Illegal Immigrants Can Apply to Stay (theepochtimes.com)