Agency assists with DACA paperwork

1/28/2013

Free clinic helps students fill out required paperwork.

Free clinic helps students fill out required paperwork.

By RACHAEL GRAY

rgray@gctelegram.com

A decade ago, Anahi Hernandez's parents came to the United States hoping to live their American dream — to make a better life for their children.

Her parents are starting to realize that dream, the 16-year-old student from Hugoton High School said Saturday.

Saturday afternoon, Hernandez applied for DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

On June 15, President Barack Obama issued for an order to stop deportation of students. Those who entered the country before turning 16 years old can apply for DACA. The measure allows for teens and young adults, ages 15 to 30, who have a high school diploma, are current students, or have their GED, to apply for deferred action.

The students also can receive employment authorization so they can work and go to school for a period of two years.

Melinda Lewis, of El Centro, who was in Garden City on behalf of Kansas Stronger Together, helped with that process Saturday as community volunteers offered a free clinic to help students get their paperwork in order.

Lewis said the deferred action allows students and contributors to stay in the country, while immigration officials worry about deporting other undocumented people.

"The idea is that there can be some discretion. That immigration doesn't have to target its very limited enforcement dollars on people who they deem to be low priority. We don't have enough money to deport everyone... These immigrants, these kids, who came here as young children, are not our priority for deportation," she said.

Lewis said the deferred action is a chance for students to have the opportunity to live out the dreams that made their parents bring them to the U.S.

"Part of the application process is to explain what their career goals and dreams are. Maybe they are CNAs who want to become an RN. Maybe they are students at the community college whose next step is to attend a four-year institution," she said.

Lewis said it also will help local and state economies to help these workers get the status they need to start working and contributing in the mainstream economy.

She also thinks it will help bring about larger-scale immigration reform.

"I believe that when we get real legislation and reform nationally, it will be because people get to know students like these and say, 'Oh, that's not what I thought of when I think about an illegal immigrant. They speak English, they go to school next to my kids,'" she said.

Hernandez said Saturday she was happy to apply.

"I want to help my parents. I want to go to college to become a pediatric nurse. For that, I need money. And for that, I need a job. And that's why I came here," she said.

She wouldn't have had these kinds of opportunities in Mexico, she said.

"The dream for my parents was to come here to give their children a better future. I think I'm starting to get that. If I get this, I'll definitely have a better future. And that's what I want," she said.

On June 15th, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced that effective immediately, certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children, do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria will be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings. Under this directive, individuals who demonstrate that they meet the following criteria will be eligible for an exercise of discretion, specifically deferred action, on a case by case basis:

* Came to the United States under the age of 16;

* Have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum and are present in the United States on the date of this memorandum;

* Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;

* Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;

* Are not older than 30.

Students that qualify for DACA will receive a two-year permit to work or attend school. They also will be exempt from any deportation proceedings, according to Sunflower Community Action, an agency, among others, that helped put on Saturday's event.

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