Deferred Action for Young, Illegal Immigrants [Podcast]
Matt: This is Matt Plessner for Lawyers.com Radio and we’ll be talking about “deferred actions for childhood arrivals” and how this affects you. We’re joined by attorney David Cox of CoxEsq from St. Louis, Missouri.
What Is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals?
David: Deferred action for childhood arrivals is the Obama Administration’s attempt to help children who were brought into the United States without any choice of their own because they were minors at the time and don’t have the proper paperwork to get a job or go to college in some cases.
Congress has been trying to deal with this problem, which most people across the aisle recognize is something we should properly deal with. They’ve tried to pass legislation called the Dream Act. Most people are calling the Obama administration‘s effort the Dream Act, which it really isn’t. This wasn’t legislation. It was an exercise of executive authority to try to address this problem.
Matt: Let’s talk about the scope of this action and who it affects.
David: Citizenship is an interesting thing. If you are born overseas to parents who are U.S. citizens, you receive derivative citizenship. You can’t become president because you weren’t born in the United States, but you nonetheless are a citizen. Children of U.S. citizens are not affected by this. Neither are children of foreigners who were born in the United States, as they are full on citizens.
This addresses and affects people whose parents are both foreign nationals who came to the United States, usually without documentation, and brought their children with them.
Deferred Action Affects Education and Employment
Matt: How does deferred action affect a child’s future education?
David: Some schools and some states will not allow you to be enrolled without a Social Security number or other documentation. You don’t necessarily have to have citizenship, but there are other admission requirements that clearly exclude undocumented immigrants. This is an attempt, at least, to help fill that gap.
The program offers these children, who apply, a work permit, which in most places is considered proof of legal status in this country, and that will allow them to apply for a Social Security number, which allows them to open a bank account for the first time and be admitted into many schools that otherwise wouldn’t allow it.
Matt: What other areas that this might affect, besides education?
David: Work is another example. These children have been here, and they’re not going anywhere. They grew up here. This is the only home they know. Many of them don’t even speak the language well enough to return to the countries from where their parents brought them. So being able to work legally is a big deal. Many of them are working without authorization right now, which creates all kinds of problems, both for them and their employers. It’s the right thing to do to solve the problem. There are a number of ways to do it, and this was one way, at least, to use a Band-aid to fix the problem until Congress can take further action.
Deferred Action and Documentation
Matt: People who are in this boat know that it can be very frustrating and difficult for them. What advice would you give somebody who, may be the child who may not have grown up here, who is now grown up, and also for the parents of this child?
David: The most difficult part of taking advantage of this program is the documentation. You have to be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, which is when they announced the program. That’s the maximum age you can be, and you have to have come to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday. That kind of draws the boundaries around which children and what age groups we’re talking about.
These same people have to have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007. That’s five years before they announced the program. You must have five years of residing in this country. That means you can’t have taken long trips, either back to your home country, and since they don’t have documentation, come back illegally. Even if you were able to travel some place legally, if you traveled and were gone too often, you wouldn’t be considered to have continuously resided in the United States.
That’s part of the problem. How do you prove you were at a location or in a particular country for five years at a time? If you don’t cover, technically, every day of those five years, someone might claim that you slipped out of the country. Documentation of these kinds of things is very difficult, especially for people who are on the fringes of our society and are afraid to do certain things and expose themselves in certain ways. Keeping documentation is hard to begin with, let alone keeping enough of it and being able to meet these requirements.
The biggest problem I’ve found with my clients is gathering the documentation to prove they were here during that period, they were of the age that they needed to be, both when they came to this country, and that they’re currently of the age required. If they have a birth certificate, that’s easier.
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