Deferred action information session to be held
Published: Sunday, September 23, 2012
Updated: Sunday, September 23, 2012 16:09
An executive order, announced June 15, allows qualified, undocumented youths to apply for a two-year deferral of deportation. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is meant to give young adults, ages 15 to 31, who came to the United States before their 16th birthdays, the opportunity to work or attend school without fear of deportation.
UCF will be holding an information session Wednesday about DACA, its application process and the risks involved with applying. The session will be led by Enrique Gonzalez, UCF’s immigration attorney, and will take place in the Pegasus Ballroom in the Student Union from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. There are 350 seats available to the public.
“This is an information session that will help the community understand who qualifies for this benefit and the process,” Nataly Chandia, executive director of the UCF International Services Center, said. “The session will allow for questions and answers since there is a lot of misinformation on this subject.”
President Barack Obama announced the executive order because the DREAM Act failed to pass in the Senate in 2010. DREAM stands for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors. The act would have provided in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants brought to the United States before they were 16 years old. The “DREAMers,” as those who qualify are commonly called, would be required to pay taxes and be admitted to college based on merit. They would not receive federal aid.
“It’s sad because these students identify themselves as Americans,” Nelson Santiago, director of UCF’s Multicultural Student Center, said. “Some of them, if they got sent back to a different country, wouldn’t even know the language.”
There is a calculated risk for DREAMers who apply for deferred action, Wendy Sefsaf, communications director for the American Immigration Council, said. When the DACA order expires, they risk having exposed themselves to immigration officials.
“I would say to be very cautious,” Sefsaf said. “Make sure that they get legal counsel and they’re not putting themselves in a position where they could get deported — especially if they have a criminal background.”
Having a criminal background would disqualify someone from deferral. Having a clean record is one of the many guidelines applicants must meet. They must also be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, have continuously resided in the United States for at least five years, be physically in the U.S. at the time of making a request for deferred action, have served in the military or be in school and have graduated from high school or obtained a GED.
There are an estimated 1.4 million immigrants in the U.S. who either meet the requirements of the DACA now, or will when they’re older, according to the American Immigration Council.
No one knows exactly how many undocumented students attend UCF, but there are definitely students who meet the criteria enrolled, Santiago said.
“A lot of these students don’t find out they’re undocumented until they are 15 or 16 years old and are trying to get a driver’s license, a job or apply for college,” Santiago said. “They’re asked for their social security card and say, ‘Hey Mom, hey Dad, I need my social security card,’ and then get sat down to have the talk.”
The DREAM Act is not currently being considered by Congress. Congress ended the 2012 session Thursday and did not address the DREAM Act.
“After two years, no one knows what will happen,” Sefsaf said. “Hopefully the DREAM Act is passed, but if not — it could expire and no one really knows.”