August 14, 2012
Young immigrants signing up to stay put
With hopes set high, young undocumented immigrants across the city readied to apply for a program beginning Wednesday that promises to let them live and work without fear of deportation.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services posted the new application forms online at uscis.gov Tuesday afternoon.
“I’m ready. I’m ready to be one of the first people to apply,” said Antonio Alarcon [member of Make the Road New York], 18, who left Mexico for Jackson Heights when he was 11.
“I think that this is something amazing that you can do,” said Alarcon, set to start at LaGuardia Community College in the fall. “I know some people are afraid because they say that you are giving so much information to immigration but I think it’s worth it.”
Max Ahmed, 23, who came to Staten Island from Pakistan when he was 11, has also been collecting school transcripts, bank statements and other documents to prove he fits the requirements for the $465 application.
“I have everything somewhere but I’ve just been putting it together,” said the City College chemical engineering student.
Local groups hosting legal clinics said they expect a flood of young people on the first day President Obama’s policy — which allows those who entered the U.S. illegally as kids or overstayed visas to apply for a deportation reprieve and work permit — goes into effect. The feds say they are unsure just how many of the estimated 1.7 million eligible countrywide will apply.
Advocates cautioned immigrants to get legal help before rushing to apply. Information on free clinics and workshops are posted online at www.weownthedream.org.
“Nothing has happened like this in years,” said Natalia Aristizabal, a youth organizer with the nonprofit Make the Road New York.
She said her group has counseled hundreds about the program — which must be renewed every two years and does not provide a path to citizenship — since it was first announced in June.
Under the new policy, the feds will give work permits to immigrants aged 15 to 30 who can prove they have lived in the U.S. since June 15, 2007, and meet a series of requirements. They must be in high school or have graduated, received a GED or been honorably discharged from the military. To get a work permit, they need to show a financial need.
Applicants must also have arrived in the U.S. before their 16th birthday. Those convicted of felonies and some misdemeanors are barred from the program and may be referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The feds also plan to scrutinize applications for fraud and violators face prosecution, USCIS director Alejandro Mayorkas said in a conference call Tuesday.
With a work permit in hand, immigrants will then be able to apply for a Social Security number.
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