Young immigrants seek reprieve through new Obama program

More than 400 people attended Sunday workshop on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program

Jose recalled the day his parents bundled him up for the move to California from Mexico. A powerfully built man in his early 20s, he still views the move as traumatic.

"They lied to me," he said, his voice wavering slightly. "They didn't say we were coming here. They said, 'We are going to the north. We are coming to the other side.'"

The result of that move, more than 15 years ago now, was that he sat on Sunday, Aug. 26, at an immigration clinic in Menlo Park, seeking ways to stay in the country where he's spent most of his life.

"Jose," who did not want to give his real name, was one of more than 400 people seeking advice and help with filling out applications for President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The program began in June and temporarily stems deportation of undocumented immigrants ages 16 to 30 who were brought to the country as children.

People whose applications are accepted would be granted a two-year "reprieve" and could obtain work permits and apply for financial aid for schooling. The program could affect more than 1 million young people who would have qualified for the failed Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, according to some federal estimates.

To be eligible, immigrants must prove they arrived in the U.S. before they turned 16, have lived in the country for five years or more and be in school or have served in the military. They also cannot have been convicted of some crimes.

Sunday's event was so popular, people were turned away, said Ilyce Shugall, supervising immigration attorney for the nonprofit Community Legal Services. A second workshop is planned for Oct. 20 or 21.

The organization's staff hopes that the correct information will get out to people. Some advocacy groups have told people they won't need attorneys, but that could jeopardize some applicants' chances, Shugall said. Many people do not understand the potential pitfalls they could encounter.

Before the applications were even released, there were cases of fraud, with some notaries and attorneys telling people that for a hefty fee they could receive the application before others, Shugall said.

An East Palo Alto mother who attended Sunday's workshop said she knows people solicited by private attorneys for as much as $8,000 to help fill out the paperwork, although she has not been approached. She and her daughter have spent 1½ months gathering the supporting paperwork they need to apply.

The daughter, who was 2 years old at the time of immigration, is a senior in high school and wants to attend a four-year college.

Adriana Gonzalez, consul in charge of legal protection for the Mexican consulate in San Francisco, said scams are common. The consulate is trying to make sure its citizens are not victims of fraud. At a table on Sunday, consulate workers distributed information on obtaining passports, birth records and information from valid websites.

"There have been many impostors, even impostor web pages," she said. She cautioned people to avoid websites with Web links that require money. Applicants are also confused about where to send their applications, she said. Many people do not realize that California residents must send the information to Phoenix, Ariz.

The consulate will be open to assist the public on Sept. 9 by appointment, she said.

One of the concerns some immigrants and their advocates have about Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is whether the information they provide will be used against them.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has said it doesn't intend to disclose the information with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which handles deportations. But there is nothing statutory within the program that protects people, Shugall said, and that concerns her. A change of administration could negate the entire program or could potentially change how the information might be used, she added.

Several applicants said they are aware of those possibilities.

Johana M. and her father came to the workshop from Newark in the East Bay. Her father said the program would allow her to get a driver's license and attend college.

"As parents, that is what we want for our child," he said, declining to give his name.

Johana said acceptance into the deferment program would allow her to apply for financial scholarships. She wants to attend a 4-year university and to major in criminal justice, she said.

But the process has many loopholes for the government to reject candidates, and she was seeking time with the attorneys so she will answer the questions accurately, she said.

"Some things are so specific, you have to get it right," she said.

At first she feared how the application information would be used, she said, but the pull of a good education has tempered that concern.

"It's worth the risk," she said.

Patricia Hernandez, 24, said she did not fear that her application would be used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deport her. The process is also fairly straightforward for people who have a good paper trail, she said.

"Luckily, my mom saved everything," she said.

Hernandez is an architecture major studying in San Diego. Her parents brought her to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 5 years old. It would be unfair to deport her and other students to Mexico, she said.

"I was raised with the culture here and adapted here. I have no family there and I barely know the (Spanish) language. There are a lot of contributions I can make here," she said.

Looking back at the throng of people gathered in knots around volunteers who handed out applications in Spanish and English, she said she did not mind waiting. If her application is accepted, she will have the same opportunities as her classmates. For all of her years of hard work in school, she will finally be able to have a work permit, she said.

Hernandez said she is grateful to Obama.

"It was an amazing thing that he did," she said.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 28, 2012 at 10:54 am

I have heard a lot about this lately. What is not being reported is what will happen after the "temporary" status expires?

If this is only temporary, what is the point?

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Posted by Ali
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 28, 2012 at 11:04 am

It's also not likely that these "children" will be able to get federal financial aid, since they're still illegal aliens and the requirements for getting it don't (as yet) include having a work permit which is what they'll have. They'll be able to work to pay for school, and can qualify for state and private aid, as they already do in some states, but the federal largesse is not likely to be available for them.

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Posted by Peeps
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 28, 2012 at 11:13 am

Seems like the point is to help young adults in this country who are here through no fault of their own, have worked hard at school and want to continue on the road to be productive member of our great community. Maybe the Republicans should have passed Bush's immigration reform, or Marco Rubio's. Or just amnesty everyone like Reagan did.

Now they have alienated an entire generation of Latinos. That's why Romney is losing persons of color by a 2-1 margin. All just to keep working on Nixon's old Southern Strategury.

ya think Romney will crack another birth certificate 'joke' at the RNC? Such a funny white guy!

Momma says stupid is as stupid does. Even GOP insiders are saying this will be the last election the GOP will be able to alienate the non-white vote.

But peeps have a long memory....

Like this comment
Posted by Enough!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 28, 2012 at 12:14 pm

I'm sorry, but I have children of college age and this whole thing bothers me to no end. I don't have the money to pay for my kid's schooling. From the UC's to the community colleges, fees are being raised. Class sizes, reduced. Classes eliminated off the curriculum entirely. Pell grants, diminished. Loans, difficult and expensive to obtain and pay back. I have lived in the United States all of my life, and paid my taxes. My kids have worked hard in school, and wish to complete their college education. At this point, it's getting really difficult. The State of California claims to be broke, but somehow, FORTY MILLION DOLLARS WAS 'FOUND' to pay for the Dream Act. I'm sorry that the parents of these children did what they did, and in a lot of cases, I don't blame them, but American kids should not be harmed while children whose parents broke the law get to benefit. The Dream Act for kids who come from American, Californian, families of modest means, has become the Nightmare Act.

And now, let the attacks begin...

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Posted by Attacks begin
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Aug 28, 2012 at 12:48 pm

"And now, let the attacks begin..." On grammar, or the winded, run-on sentence structure?

"The Dream Act for kids who come from American, Californian, families of modest means, has become the Nightmare Act." Didn't these kids mostly grow up in California? Aren't they earning the chance to go to college on merit, through their hard work? You want to hand government money to a bunch of local kids just because they were born somewhere, without any merit involved?

Seems to me, these kids represent the continuing uniquely America story, represented in every American family that ever had descendents immigrate to the continent. Now poster "Enough" has his/hers, wants to pull the ladder up behind him. Selfish, selfish, selfish.

Does not apply to Native Americans, of course.

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Posted by Enough!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 28, 2012 at 1:31 pm

@Attacks, thank you for making my point. As usual, people on these boards don't disappoint in their petty demagoguery and smug superiority. For one thing, my children ARE Native American. Their Rancheria is broke. For another, not every kid, no matter how hard they work, qualifies for a scholarship. They have been applying for help, and are being told that there is no money. Let me ask, do YOU have children currently going through this situation? If you don't, keep your idyllic little all inclusive American dream to yourself, it doesn't reflect experience or reality.

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Posted by Attacks begin
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Aug 28, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Wow. Re-read it without your blinders on.

To answer your question, yes I am " currently going through this situation"

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Posted by Enough!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 28, 2012 at 2:04 pm

When a person attacks another personally, such as on their style of writing, or name-calling as in telling someone they are selfish, that is enough to raise the hackles on anyone's back. Perhaps in future threads, you could address the issue at hand instead of attacking the writing style and personal attributes of a person you don't know. I have taken in 8 kids, non related, off reservations, gave them love, shelter and food, and put them through school. On my own dime, not one penny from the government or their parents. I earn what basically amounts to just above poverty level, especially in this area, but I shared what I had with those kids. Tell me, O Great God of the Written Word, what have you done for society lately?

Like this comment
Posted by Attacks begin
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Aug 28, 2012 at 2:13 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Like this comment
Posted by Enough!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 28, 2012 at 2:16 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Like this comment
Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Aug 29, 2012 at 3:47 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

The answer is to fund all our kids. Voters will get a chance in November with Props 30 and 38.

I don't think the state Dream Act moves take much money "away" from other students but I appreciate the difficulty many families are having with the cost and lessened college access.

We shoot ourselves in the foot by not expanding college opportunity and access for all qualified students including young people brought here by their parents who, except for their parents' status, would be welcome additions to our talent base.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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