Deferred Action: Apply With No Fear
One major concern is the chance of deportation if the application is denied, and the answer is no.
A denial may hold the applicants at risk of deportation only if there is evidence of a criminal history or fraud. Immigration attorney Madhu N. Sharma said even though there might be denial and no appeal, the government wouldn’t use the information to prosecute a large group of people, unless the individuals meet the parameter of Notices to Appear (NTA), a type of summons prepared and served by law enforcement focusing on people with deportable crimes.
“It pretty much focuses on fraud and crime,” Sharma said.
She also said that once the application is submitted, however, “you are in their system.” Law enforcement might use the information later in a separate case in which the applicant is scrutinized.
Another concern is the safety of undocumented family members if the young people move forward and expose themselves as illegal immigrants. Carl Shusterman, former chairman of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Southern California Chapter, said it's currently unknown what questions will be asked about family members until the actual application form is released next week, but there is always a possibility of policy shift that applicants should consider.
Though there is emphasis on confidentiality of family information, Sharma said she doubts if it will be enforced, because in her 15 years of practicing immigration cases, the confidentiality protection is often violated. Her advice is to consult an attorney if family members are undocumented, but young people shouldn’t let fear stop them from applying, Sharma said.
Instead, the most important yet difficult thing in the application, she continued, is to provide sufficient proof of consistent physical residency in the U.S. for the last five years. Medical records, utility bills, school records, even emails will be helpful and a minor mistake might get you in trouble.
A lot of critical questions in the application are still unanswered, such as what would be considered a significant misdemeanor, public safety threat or national security threat. There's concern that a minor law violation like traffic tickets might get in between their stay and a legal status. Some non-profit organizations, like United We Dream, warned applicants not to hire attorneys or advocates before the application process begins.
Anthony Ng, 23, an undocumented immigrant, is going to apply for the deferred action. He said his only concern is to provide the proper documents. He said he has no criminal record and should have no problem going through.
“For me, coming out is the best thing,” Ng said. “Confronting my identity of being undocumented makes me feel a little bit liberated.”
Scarlet Kim, an undocumented student at the University of California, Los Angeles, said she feels lucky that she is still under the age limit while her friend, who just turned 31, missed the chance. She said there is a burden of trying to be the best as an undocumented student in order to earn the respect and approval to stay in the country she calls home. Her possibility of winning a legal status, however, encourages her to help those who can’t.
The deferred action has raised hope for many undocumented youths, as well as some resentment toward them. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa recently released a statement to show his support. He said the policy reinforces Americans’ belief in opportunity and fairness and the history of inclusion.
Lawyers and dreamers both agree on keeping up the push for passing something along the lines of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which failed to pass in the last session of Congress.
Sharma said that the deferred action is merely an initial victory and continuous efforts to push for legal reform is still needed.
“You never know when the government and our policies and our people will rally for what I would consider a step back from this more favorable policy," she said.