'Deferred action' program begins

August 15th, 2012

By Bert Eljera
August 15, 2012

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 undocumented 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 statement.

She has attended a campaign stop by Shelley Berkley, a Democrat running for the U.S. Senate in Nevada, who has asked the Democratic to adopt the legislation providing relief to young undocumented immigrants as part of the party’s platform.

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, 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.

It was met with derision from Republicans, who called it an election-year gimmick, but with joy by those who will 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 DREAMers websites, Spark Action. “But I also know that there is much work still to be done.”

Some have found refuge – and support – from civil rights organizations, including several in the Asian-American community, such as the Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco.

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.

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