Letter No. 30: Immigration reform now! (36101)

On Thursday, June 14, I wrote a column asking President Barack Obama to stand up for the many young DREAMers, those young undocumented in the country without hope. Well, as the saying goes, be careful what you ask for, as dreams do come true. On Friday morning, June 15, I woke up to the exhilarating news that the president had answered the call of so many like myself and simply bypassed Congress and pushed his version of the DREAM Act.

With tears in my eyes, I welcomed the news on behalf of so many in the shadows, including 24-year-old Veronica Gomez and 23-year-old Javier Hernandez, the two undocumented immigrant students who bravely stepped forward and took action last week, occupying Obama’s Denver campaign office and beginning a hunger strike that effectively closed the office to visitors and volunteers. I know they must be celebrating, along with the over 80,000 who will benefit from this decision.

As the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on Friday, “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.”

Most of all, DHS stated, “Those who demonstrate that they meet the criteria will be eligible to receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization.”

To qualify, these youth must have come 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 the memorandum and be 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; and are not above the age of 30.

Only individuals who can prove through verifiable documentation that they meet these criteria will be eligible for deferred action. Individuals will not be eligible if they are not currently in the United States and cannot prove that they have been physically present in the United States for a period of not less than five years immediately preceding June 15.

Note, however, that deferred action requests are decided on a case-by-case basis. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will begin implementation of the change within 60 days.

For more information on the new policy, visit USCIS’ website (www.uscis.gov), ICE’s website (www.ice.gov) or DHS’ website (www.dhs.gov).

As of Monday, June 18, individuals can also call USCIS’ hotline at (800) 375-5283 or ICE’s hotline at (888) 351-4024 during business hours with questions or to request more information on the process.

For individuals who are in removal proceedings and have already been identified as meeting the eligibility criteria and have been offered an exercise of discretion as part of ICE’s ongoing case-by-case review, ICE will immediately begin to offer them deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal.

It’s the best executive decision yet of the Obama administration. Way to go, Mr. President. The November election is now truly yours–yes, it is! This definitely was the moment of your administration for me, and is truly a DREAM we can believe in.

The writer is founder of NewsAmericasNow, CaribPR Wire and Hard Beat Communications.