Tens of thousands of people, including busloads of New Yorkers, plan to rally for immigration reform in Washington today. However, advocates are urging local undocumented young people not to wait on Congress.
While the chances for passage of comprehensive immigration reform appear to be improving, staff attorney Nick Katz with Make the Road New York said undocumented immigrants here could be taking steps to avoid deportation now.
Katz has assisted many undocumented young people in New York in staying legally in the country through President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) plan.
Katz said 27,000 to 30,000 young people in New York have applied for DACA, “but that’s out of an estimated population of somewhere between 80,000 and 110,000 who could be eligible – so we’re still doing outreach.”
Many undocumented New York students likely qualify, Katz said. They had to come to the United States before they turned 16, be working towards a diploma or have a GED. Katz said there are additional requirements, and Make the Road New York provides free screenings to determine if locals qualify for deferred action or other forms of relief.
Katz works weekly at Make the Road’s Brentwood office on Long Island, where he says deferred action is buying much-needed time for the undocumented. There is no question Congress needs to repair the broken immigration system and improve on this temporary fix, he said.
“It’s giving them work authorization which is incredibly important, and it’s giving them some protection from deportation which is also important,” he said, “but it’s not giving them a path to citizenship, which any kind of comprehensive immigration reform that’s being talked about would do.”
Special immigrant visas also are available to young people who have been abused, abandoned or neglected by one of their parents, as well as victims of crime, Katz said, adding that these forms of relief can make the applicant eligible for a “green card.” He said it’s best for undocumented young people to stop by the nearest Make the Road office to find out if they qualify.
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