Less than a month after the Obama Administration implemented Deferred Action – an immigration policy that allows eligible youth the opportunity to obtain employment authorization and deferred action providing temporary relief from deportation or removal proceedings – Representative Yvette Clarke hosted a legal clinic to provide hands-on assistance to almost 100 individuals and family groups who were ready to apply.
Nationally, 70,000 have applied for the two-year deferment and work permits. The first approvals were granted this week.
“I encourage anyone who is DREAM Act-eligible to apply for this program that will give so many young people an opportunity to participate in our civil society,” said Representative Yvette D. Clarke. “I hope employment authorization will be one of the many other benefits that will be granted across the nation.”
Deferred Action – an Executive Order signed by President Obama — was announced on June 15 by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and took effect August 15.
Last week, 12 attorneys were available to assist applicants of Caribbean and Latino descent at Clarke’s clinic. The New York Immigration Coalition, CAMBA, the NY Legal Assistance Group, Brooklyn Defender Services and the Caribbean Women’s Health Association participated. Applicants were assisted by appointment after obtaining the $465 fee and gathering necessary documents such as school and medical records, which would prove the immigrants are under 31 years old, arrived in the U.S. before age 16, are currently in school or graduated from high school, or have been honorably discharged from the military. They must submit fingerprints and undergo a background check. Applicants will also be assessed for risk to national security, which is part of the regular visa process.
Clarke’s district office has received 300 calls expressing interest. Her office is making ongoing referrals for immigrants who were not yet ready.
In preparation to apply, hundreds packed a town hall at the Founder’s Hall of Medgar Evers College recently: undocumented immigrant youth from the Caribbean, China, Africa, Mexico, South Asia and the Middle East seeking information on Deferred Action. Rep. Yvette Clarke hosted the event with a variety of federal officials to detail the application process.
Images of Hispanic youth waiting in long lines for applications belie the diversity of interest in the program. “There are people of African descent who are also in need of these types of programs and services who are awaiting Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” said Rep. Clarke. “My district goes even beyond that. We have kids who are South Asian, Middle Eastern and they, too are brought here by their parents. They could be from Israel or from Yemen. We’ve got everyone here.” Clarke said they may have become acculturated to the United States and see this as their home because they were raised here. They are also eligible for the program. “We’re trying to get across to every community within the district that this opportunity they should not miss,” she said.
The complete application fee is $465. Rep. Clarke is hoping to enlist nonprofit organizations, religious organizations and corporations for assistance to help pay the fee.
“It is going to be a costly endeavor. We want to see what we can do with the community to be of support. We will be working with some of our community-based organizations, some of our international organizations – social organizations of nationals from other countries that are established here, that do scholarship funds and things of that nature for kids who are going to college — maybe they’ll set some dollars aside to help subsidize these applications,” said Rep. Clarke.