Opening a path to citizenship

Young immigrants protest Obama deportation policies. By Getty Images

By Bert Eljera

LAS VEGAS – Since President Obama signed an executive order allowing undocumented immigrants who were brought in as children to apply for temporary legal status, nearly 5,000 have been approved, and could eventually find a path to citizenship.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has announced the approved applications under the so-called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

The USCIS said that since August when the final guidelines were approved, the agency has “accepted 179,794 requests for processing, and that 4,591 requests have been approved.

To be eligible, the USCIS said, the individual must be:

  • Under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012
  • Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
  • Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
  • Entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, 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 (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
  • Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety. Individuals can call USCIS at 1-800-375-5283 with questions or to request more information on the deferred action for childhood arrivals process or visit

According to some estimates, as many as 937,000 people brought here as children might 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 an Executive Order creating the program, which was inspired by the “Dream Act,” a bipartisan legislation that has failed to pass the U.S. Congress.

The Development Relief and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, was voted in 2007 and 2010, but failed to muster 60 votes, prompting Obama to issue the executive order.

The USCIS approved final guidelines on Aug. 15 and began accepting applications. The fee is $465 each.

Republicans and other opponents charged Obama with election-year politics in promulgating the executive order and offering what could pass off as “amnesty.”

Supporters of the action say it was a rational response to a growing problem for young undocumented immigrants, who have spent most of their lives in the U.S. and are essentially Americans.

With Latinos considered a key demographic in the 2012 election, both the Mitt Romney and Obama camps have used the “Dream Act,” or a version of it to their advantage.

Rep. Martin Heinrich, the Democratic nominee for a Senate seat from New Mexico, is leading the effort to include the “Dream Act,” in the Democratic platform.

Democratic candidate Shelley Berkley in Nevada said she supports the campaign, and a spokesman for Richard Carmona in Arizona said he does as well.

Follow Bert Eljera on Twitter at @vegaspinoy60 or on Facebook at



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