Eligible undocumented immigrants can now apply for a two-year deportation deferral, a Social Security number and a work permit, but directors at the nonprofit Immigration Advocacy Services Debra Gilmore and Antonio Meloni are telling people to wait a few weeks.
“We want to do it carefully,” Meloni said. “You never want to be the first.”
Aug. 15 was the first day to apply, but once people submit their papers they can’t resubmit. It’s a one-time application with a mandatory $465 fee. Therefore with no retries Gilmore and Meloni want to make sure applicants have all the correct documents and are definitely eligible.
“It’s a gamble,” potential applicant Oscar Rodriguez, 29, said, because it’s his first time showing his illegal status to the government, but added that it’s worth it because “starting work is everything.”
Rodriguez came from Mexico at age 10 with his parents. The Astoria resident graduated from Aviation High School with qualifications to work as an aircraft mechanic. His illegal status stopped him from going into his field, so he decided to go to college for business administration.
After graduation, he landed a job in construction because he knows how to read blueprints. He said his business would like to promote him, but wants him to be on the books.
If he is approved for a deportation deferral, Rodriguez doesn’t know which field he will pursue — business administration, aviation or construction management, but without the legal working papers he doesn’t have any of those options. He said he’s focusing on the application before he starts looking to the future.
“I don’t want to start having dreams and then everything comes down as usual,” he said.
Individuals must have the documents to show they have a clean record, graduated from high school, arrived in the United States before they were 16 years old, have lived here for at least five years and were under the age of 31 before June 15, when President Obama issued the directive.
Congress has not passed the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, which would grant deportation deferral and temporary worker permits. The act failed in 2009 and was reintroduced in 2011, but no legislative action has been taken since then.
Then on June 15, Obama took the issue into his own hands and issued a policy directive stating almost identical qualifications and two-year deportation deferrals. Some Republican politicians nationwide, even some who would support the change legislatively, are calling the policy directive a ploy to grab the Latino vote in the upcoming presidential election.
“I call it Dream Act light,” Meloni, a supporter, said.
Meloni and Gilmore do not discourage young illegal immigrants from applying, saying that it’s a great initiative. They also do not believe those who step forward put themselves in increased danger of being deported after the two years end.
“There would be no upside, unless you were trying to make a political point, to taking out a population that didn’t do anything wrong. Stick to going after criminal aliens,” Gilmore said.
But Gilmore and Meloni do want more answers. One stipulation they want more information on is which documents prove an individual has lived in the United States for the last five years.
Meloni says its easier for students who can show school transcripts, but what about 30-year-old graduates such as Rodriguez, who haven’t attended school for the last five or more years? One idea is that cell phone bills could validate residency, but that still needs to be fleshed out.
Another question is about crime. The application says the individual must not have committed a significant misdemeanor, but Gilmore asks, what constitutes an insignificant misdemeanor?
Immigration Advocacy Services also wants to know, how many documents will suffice?
“We don’t want to try out the new directive on our constituents until we’re sure,” Meloni said.