About the program
About the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program:
• It applies to undocumented immigrants 31 years old and younger who came to the United States before age 16 and have been in the country at least five years.
• To be eligible, immigrants must have a high school diploma or equivalent, or currently be enrolled in school and must never have been convicted of certain crimes.
• The program grants eligible immigrants a two-year work permit and prevents deportation for two years.
• It costs $465 to apply for the program, and decisions can take several months.
• Applications are available online at http://1.usa.gov/NtmKRA.
Mauricio Gomez, retention specialist at the Kansas University Office of Multicultural Affairs, knows the stories firsthand.
Undocumented KU students, who aren’t eligible for federal financial aid, work and scrape together tuition money. They graduate but can’t find professional jobs in their field because they’re undocumented immigrants who moved to the United States, often at a very young age.
“It’s heartbreaking to see students who’ve excelled being unable to find a job,” said Gomez, who is also the staff adviser for the KU Hispanic American Leadership Organization, or HALO. “This is their home.”
But a recent move by the Obama administration might provide some help.
An executive order, which was signed by President Barack Obama in June and went into effect this week, provides two-year work permits — and temporarily prevents deportation — for immigrants who are 31 years old or younger and who were brought to the United States when they were under the age of 16. The program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, applies to undocumented immigrants who have been in the U.S. for at least five years, who have completed high school or are in school, and who have not been convicted of certain crimes.
The Migration Policy Institute and Pew Hispanic Center estimate that as many as 1.7 million people could be eligible to stay in the U.S. and legally work under the new policy.
Jessica Prieda, an attorney with the Kansas City-based nonprofit legal organization Immigration Professionals, said the move has created excitement in the immigrant community.
“Our offices are being flooded,” Prieda said.
But the order falls short of the provisions of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, commonly referred to as the DREAM Act, which has failed to pass in Congress the past two years.
The DREAM Act, which immigration advocates say is model legislation for handling children of immigrants, provides a path to citizenship. The current program does not, and it’s unclear what the status of those who apply for the new program will be after the two-year reprieve.
“It feels more like a patch than a fix,” Gomez said.
There is some concern among immigrants who say that registering for the program will make them easily identifiable once the program ends and perhaps more likely to be targeted for deportation, Prieda said.
“There’s always a lot of rumors,” said Prieda, whose organization has been working to get the full facts of the program to the immigrant community in Kansas and Missouri. It’s not likely, she said, that the program will be reversed under a possible new presidential administration or sued to identify undocumented immigrants.
For undocumented youths, some of whom attend KU, the new program is progress, said Mauricio Puebla, KU sophomore president of HALO, who expects some KU students to apply for the program.
“It’s a step forward, but we still have a few more steps to go,” he said.