June 18, 2013

What happens to a DREAM Act deferred?

Nearly 300,000 young adults who lived illegally in the U.S. get permission to stay under a new program.

By CHRISTINE ARMARIO/The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

Jorge Tume
click image to enlarge

Jorge Tume works on a computer at a concrete company in Miami. Tume’s parents brought him and his younger brother to the U.S. from Peru on tourist visas when they were young.

The Associated Press

Francis Tume
click image to enlarge

Francis Tume drives his truck in Miami, one year after President Obama announced an executive order allowing young people living in the United States illegally to stay and work.

The Associated Press

"I think that deferred action gave us the opportunity to not be scared," Ulloa said.

After years of babysitting and other short-term, low paying jobs, Ulloa landed a full-time job with benefits related to her field of study: She's the Florida organizer for United We Dream, a youth immigrant advocacy organization.

"I think that's one of the biggest gifts of deferred action," she said. "The fact I can be eager about graduation and know I'm actually able to use my degree."

Deferred action hasn't, however, solved many of the challenges Ulloa and others still face. A handful of Republican-led states have blocked basic benefits for the program, denying recipients identification cards, driver's licenses, access to healthcare, in-state tuition for college, student financial aid and even college admission.

Karen Mantilla, 19, has finally been able to cross some of the milestones her peers passed years ago. After being approved for deferred action, she got a learner's permit and a job at a vegetarian restaurant in Bay Shore, N.Y. But unlike many of her classmates, she won't be going straight to college after high school.

Mantilla, who was born in Colombia, was brought into the United States illegally as a child. She cannot apply for state or federal aid and can't afford tuition. She plans to work and then attend a community college next year instead.

The number of young adults applying for deferred action has also been much less than expected. The government had estimated 1 million would apply in the first year, but fewer than half that number have so far.

Kamal Essaheb, an immigration policy attorney with the National Immigration Law Center, said getting information out about the program, particularly to rural communities, is one challenge. It's also possible the total number of eligible immigrants may be lower than the initial estimates, which ranged from 800,000 to 1.7 million. Still, the biggest hurdle is the fee.

It costs $465 to file an application, and for young adults already squeezed trying to help their families and pay college tuition, that can be prohibitive, or at least delay their petition.

"Whenever I go to clinics over the last few months, I always ask applicants, 'What took you this long to apply?"' said Essaheb. "And the number one response I get is the money."

Those who apply today are facing longer processing times; the initial applicants received their notification of approval in as quickly as a month. Now it takes about six months, according to federal data.

Tume received his approval in October. A month later, he got a call from a manager at the Central Concrete SuperMix company where he and his brother still cleaned in the evenings. The boss wanted to know if Tume could see himself working in the offices, not just cleaning them.

"I said, 'Yes, I'd be happy to,"' Tume said.

 

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