The information undocumented youths provide to the federal government for a temporary reprieve from deportation under the new deferred-action immigration program will not be used to remove them from the country unless they have committed certain criminal offenses, are a national-security threat, or lie on the application.
"Those cases pursuant to the consideration [for deferred action] will not be referred to ICE," Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas said during a conference call on Friday.
Applicants must have lived in the U.S. for at least five years, be under the age of 30, and either be honorably discharged from the military or have a high school diploma or GED. An applicant cannot have a criminal background or pose a threat to national security or public safety — meaning that violent criminals, felons, and repeat immigration offenders will not qualify. Additional information has been posted online.
Forms for the program will available online on Aug. 15, and youths should expect to pay $465 to apply. Mayorkas said fee waivers would generally not be granted, except in a few cases where the applicant is homeless, in foster care, or suffers a chronicled disability and is living at 150 percent below the poverty line.
Undocumented youths can expect to undergo a background check that will be compared against a variety of databases, said Mayorkas. If they are denied, they can't file a motion to reopen or appeal the decision, he said.
Mayorka stressed deferred action does not create a pathway to legalization nor does it provide a pathway to citizenship.
"It does not provide a lawful status," Mayorka said.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., said in a statement that the amount to apply may be significant for a young person, but "relief from the constant fear of deportation and having your family split apart is priceless."
Mayorkas also warned undocumented immigrants and their families to be aware of unscrupulous notarios who are not authorized to practice immigration law but may promise a speedier process for a fee. "People should be wary of these scams," Mayorkas said.
(RELATED STORY: Advocates Warn of Immigration Scams.)
Immigrant advocate Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, sees the move to keep the confidentiality of the applicants a step in the right direction. It will not only quell concerns that applying could put their siblings in jeopardy, but it could encourage more of these immigrant youths to apply. Still, anytime an immigrant comes forward, there's some level of risk.
"Under this president, the risk is worth the reward," Noorani said.
With less than two weeks left for young undocumented immigrants to submit their applications for deferred action, advocacy groups around the country have hosted webinars, town hall meetings, and special seminars to inform these immigrants and their families of the basic qualifications.
One nonprofit, OneAmerica, is hosting forums in 10 cities this month in the state of Washington. Other workshops are in Georgia, New York, and Texas. One organiztion, United We Dream, teamed up with the Mexican Embassy to help young people process their Mexican passports, birth certificates, and other documents they may need to apply for deferred action or temporary work permits.
This article is part of our Next America: Communities project, which is supported by a grant from Emerson Collective.
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