Despite enthusiastic cheers from immigrant communities, President Obama’s announcement to temporarily suspend the deportation of some undocumented youth should be approached with caution.
This was the advice of a New York immigration attorney during the Café Migrante forum held on Sunday, June 24 in Woodside, Queens.
“While we welcome this development with open arms, we need to take a closer look at this new policy,” lawyer Cristina Godinez said during the Café Migrante forum held on Sunday, June 24 in Woodside, New York.
“President Obama’s announcement is just a temporary relief from deportation. It does not confer permanent resident (aka green card) status, it is not a path to citizenship and it is certainly not amnesty,” Godinez said.
On June 15, President Obama President Obama announced that the U.S. government will stop deporting young, undocumented immigrants and will grant them temporary work permits. These permits to stay and work in the United States come with certain conditions similar to those previously proposed under the DREAM Act.
To be eligible for deportation relief, undocumented or illegal immigrants must meet these conditions:
- Must have come to the United States under the age of 16;
- Must have continuously resided in the U.S. for at least five years;
- Must be currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or be an honorably discharged veteran;
- Must not have been convicted of certain crimes or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety; and
- Must be under the age of 30.
The Pew Hispanic Center, an immigration research institute, estimates as many as 1.4 million children and young adults, including 700,000 between the ages of 18 and 30, could benefit from Obama’s new immigration policy.
Godinez, however, advised the public to keep in mind that this new policy is just a temporary relief.
“The grant of a two-year deferred action, although renewable, does not technically legalize an immigrant’s status. It simply means the procedure for removal or deportation is suspended,” she said.
Godinez clarified that the deportation relief announced by Obama is neither a law nor an executive order as earlier reported in the media. The new policy was just a directive to defer deportations of young undocumented immigrants.
This deferment can be undone at any time, especially if a new president decides to do so. “With presidential elections due in November, this can happen as early as January next year, in the event Obama loses his reelection bid,” Godinez said.
The stop-deportation order is only limited to the 18-to-30-year old immigrants and does not cover the immigration status of their parents.
“It’s a difficult decision for young people to come out and apply for deportation relief and work permit,” Godinez said. “That would also mean that they are admitting that their parents could also be undocumented that would in turn result in putting their parents in danger of being deported.”
Calls to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to inquire about the application process for deportation relief led to a recorded message saying that it won’t be able to accept applications until mid-August.
Godinez reiterated the the Obama order is not a subsititute for the Dream Act. “The Dream Act needs to be passed,” she said.
The Dream Act (acronym for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) is a bill aimed at providing conditional permanent resident status to young immigrants. It was first introduced in the U.S. Congress in 2001 and has been reintroduced several times.
Café Migrante is a monthly forum on immigration issues held on the last Sunday of the month at the Bayanihan Community Center located at 40-21 69th St, Woodside, Queens.
Attorney Godinez has helped hundreds of immigrants with visa, green card and citizenship applications for the past 10 years.
To get to the Bayanihan Community Center, take the 7 Train and get off at 69th St. and Fisk Avenue stop along Roosevelt Avenue.
For more information, please call Melanie Dulfo of the Philippine Forum at 718-565-8862 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Philippine Forum is a New York City-based not-for-profit organization that provides direct services, training and advocacy to Filipinos and people of Filipino heritage in the United States. It is also a prime mover in coalitions with other immigrant groups in advocating for immigration reform.
Keep in mind that President Obama’s deportation-relief order is just a temporary relief, New York lawyer Cristina Godinez told the audience at the Café Migrante forum on June 24 at the Bayanihan Community Center in Woodside, New York.