8/22/12 | 391 views
Charities Assists Program for Undocumented Young People
Immigration Services of the archdiocese is available to assist individuals who have questions about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that will allow certain undocumented young people to be at least temporarily freed from the threat of deportation and get work permits.
“Our mission is to create hope and to provide help, and that’s what we’re here to do,” said Ms. Raluca Oncioiu, program director of the archdiocese’s Immigration Services and the Immigration Hotline of Catholic Charities Community Services.
“In this case, the hope was created by this (DACA) policy that was announced, so what we need to do is provide the help.”
Ms. Oncioiu suggests a good place to start is the New Americans Hotline, 800-566-7636, for New York residents only. Formerly known as the New York State Immigration Hotline, it is available Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Aug. 31 then, effective Sept. 4, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Callers’ anxieties will be eased as their questions are answered, she said.
“If you’re confused… call the hotline,” she added.
Ms. Oncioiu is currently coordinating presentations about DACA. Area organizations interested in requesting a presentation should call the hotline, she said.
Apparently, the telephones of the hotline were ringing off the hook the day DACA launched. Although it was a holy day in the Church—the feast of the Assumption—and the office was closed, four times the calls it typically receives on a given day were recorded via voicemail, said Ms. Lindita Berdynaj, director of operations.
She estimated 68 percent of the calls were about DACA. “That continued on Aug. 16,” she said, with 75 percent of the calls also about the deferred action program.
Thursday is walk-in or intake day at the archdiocesan immigration services, headquartered at the New York Catholic Center, 1011 First Ave.
Last Thursday, Aug. 16, the day after system for the DACA program opened operations nationwide, was a bustling day at archdiocesan immigration services. That day, personnel saw double the traffic they typically do, according to Ms. Berdynaj.
Potential applicants across the country may have been anxious to submit applications as soon as the system for the DACA program opened, but as the date approached, many issues remained unsettled.
At an Aug. 7 panel briefing, Alejandro Mayorkas, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which will handle the majority of the applications, said many specifics remained to be worked out for the program.
The application itself was not available until Aug. 15.
It’s unclear how long it will take to process applications. Among other factors, Mayorkas said, that may depend upon whether people rush to apply at the beginning or wait to see how others fare first.
President Barack Obama announced June 15 that effective in 60 days the Department of Homeland Security would offer the chance for undocumented people younger than age 31 to request that the government use its prosecutorial discretion to defer deportation proceedings and give them work permits.
DACA applies to young people who were brought to the U.S. before they turned 16 and who meet various other qualifications, such as passing background checks, providing proof of how long they’ve been here, and proof that they are in or have completed school or military service.
The program will, by administrative action, provide the possibility of a temporary fix for young people who would benefit from the DREAM Act, a long-stymied immigration reform bill that would give the group of people the chance to legalize their status and potentially work toward citizenship.
As many as 1.76 million people might be eligible for the program, estimated the Migration Policy Institute in a paper released at the Aug. 7 briefing. That would make it the largest initiative of the U.S. immigration agency since more than 2.6 million people were able to legalize their status under the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act.
The institute’s analysis boosted previous estimates of the potential pool of applicants by hundreds of thousands, after Homeland Security said people who are now younger than the cutoff age for DACA would be eligible once they turn 15. People who enroll in school or get a GED before they apply also will be eligible, making potentially 350,000 high school dropouts eligible if they return to the classroom.
While the 1986 law gave people permanent legal status, the deferred action program is just a temporary reprieve from deportation, for a renewable two-year period.
As an executive action by the White House, not a law passed by Congress, it does not confer permanent legal status or provide a path to citizenship.
In early August, Homeland Security released more details about the program, such as the types of documentation that will be accepted and answers to some questions, including the program’s cost—a total of $465 for the DACA application, fingerprinting and the application for a work permit.
Additional resources include the National Legal Center for Immigrants of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, or CLINIC.
An online screening tool is available on the website of the Immigration Advocates Network, www.immigrationadvocates.org, a collaboration of CLINIC and other faith-based and nonprofit immigrant-aid organizations.
CLINIC’s website is loaded with materials for legal services agencies and information for potential applicants. A podcast posted on www.cliniclegal.org offers a wide range of issues for agencies to be considering.
Catholic News Service contributed to this story.
Browse our archive of photos