Undocumented Await News On Two-Year Reprieve

By Gloria Angelina Castillo, EGP Staff Writer

Twenty-nine Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applications have been completed nationwide and nearly 150,000 applications have been received and are being reviewed, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced.

While it took the government a few weeks to process the first cases, Attorney Alan Diamante says applicants should be patient; the entire process could take several months.

“The government is not entirely consistent,” Diamante, an adjunct professor at Loyola Law School, told EGP.  “Obviously they can pull [this] off in a matter of months, but it’s hard to say because of the volume they are dealing with.”

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Majorca was in Los Angeles for an event on Tuesday and took time to answer questions on the DACA process. Attorney Meredith Brown, a board member of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Los Angeles (CHIRLA), attended the event and asked Majorca how long applicants would have to wait for a response to their applications.

Majorca said it could take 4 to 6 months to come up with the final determinations, Brown told EGP.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Primeros Casos de Acción Diferida Son Aprobados, Miles Esperan Respuesta

USCIS has 82,361 cases still in the intake stage, 63,717 have fingerprinting appointments scheduled, while only 1,660 are ready to be reviewed for adjudication, according to information provided by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

21-year-old Areli Villareal mailed her DACA application on Sept. 4; by Sept. 10 she received confirmation it had been received. On Monday, the Cal State Dominguez Hills business administration student told EGP that she has received an appointment to be fingerprinted, part of the background check process.

“I’m excited and a little scared. Well, I’m scared that for some reason they might reject my application,” she said.

Villareal received guidance on her application at a DACA workshop presented by the Southeast Leadership Network (SLN). She said the application was easy, the hardest part was collecting the required documents that show she has lived in this country since she was 8 years old.

Villareal said she was more nervous about applying for DACA than she was applying to college. “I was a really good student in high school, so I figured I’m probably going to get accepted here and there,” Villareal said.

She explained that she knew if she was not accepted to a four-year university, she could always attend a community college. If her DACA application is turned down, she could resubmit the application, but it will cost another $500 and it won’t be a sure shot, she said.

Villareal is the president of the Cal State Dominguez Hills “Espiritu de Nuestro Futuro” (Spirit of Our Future) club, a group of AB540 eligible students. She says she knows about 10 or 20 peers who have applied or plan to apply, but so far she isn’t aware of anyone being approved.

Local school districts say said they have been inundated with requests for school transcripts, one of the requirements of the DACA application.

Last week, the Los Angeles Unified School District School Board approved a resolution submitted by Board Member Bennett Kayser to support DACA applicants by speeding up the turn around time for processing transcript requests. The school district currently has a backlog of 2,300 requests and it takes up to 45 days to provide the documents, according to Kayser’s website.

Undocumented immigrants who meet all the requirements of the newly created Obama Administration program, could be granted relief from deportation and receive work permits. In California they may also qualify for driver’s licenses.

Excitement over the prospect of receiving legal status, if only temporarily, could leave some potential candidates vulnerable to unscrupulous predators. Both Diamante and Brown urged applicants to be wary of possible scams, unqualified document preparers, or unscrupulous lawyers who are trying to capitalize on this opportunity. Diamante suggests applicants also consider getting a second opinion to ensure that they do meet all the requirements.

“Our concern is the mad rush… there’s no hurry to file these things, it’s more important that they file them correctly. There’s no deadline to apply, so they should make sure they do it right,” he said.

Brown said applicants shouldn’t pay a lawyer more than $500 for help with their applications. She also said numerous non-profits, like CHIRLA, can help applicants at a lower cost.

For more information on DACA visit http://www.uscis.gov/

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September 20, 2012  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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