The record level of deportations being carried out by Immigration and Customs Enforcement includes an unknown number of immigrants who came to the U.S. at a young age, call this country home, and are not aware that they are eligible for deferred action.
While deferred action is not limited to youth, according to the Immigration Policy Center, “Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Richard Lugar (R-IN), for instance, last year asked the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to defer the removal of young people who qualified for legal permanent residence until such time as their legislation, the DREAM Act, became law.”
Many young people who now face deportation proceedings would be eligible for the DREAM Act, which would grant unauthorized immigrants who entered the U.S. before the age of 16 conditional legal-resident status for a period of six years, after which they would be eligible to become legal permanent residents if they obtain at least an associate-level college degree or serve two years in the military.
DREAM Activists — a resource network for undocumented students — has been working on deportation cases of students for a long time, along with law students and immigration attorneys.
“As we started getting more cases we realized we don’t have the resources to handle all cases and they will fall through the cracks,” Mohammad Abdollahi of DREAM Activist tells The Florida Independent, “so we sat down and came up with a guide so people can figure it out by themselves.”
The Asian Law Caucus, Educators for Fair Consideration, the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, and DREAM Activist together released a Removal Defense Guide (.pdf) earlier this month.
“With over 60 pages of legal and organizing support from various successful public cases, the guide aims to provide undocumented youth, families, and lawyers with the essentials for deportation defense,” according to a press release issued by the Asian Law Caucus.
The guide focuses primarily on the Department of Homeland Security’s ability to exercise prosecutorial discretion by granting deferred action to students who are facing removal from the United States.
Abdollahi says that the manual is limited to discussing prosecutorial discretion when a DREAM Act student has a final Order of Removal or is in Removal Proceedings with no other legal options. He adds that even though the guide is targeted at youth, it works for families as well.
Abdollahi tells the Independent it is frustrating that under President Obama so many students are being deported. He explains that DREAM Activist has had cases in which deferred action was granted from Washington, D.C., but local immigration officers reject the decision. If deporting students is not a priority, adds Abdollahi, we hope the Obama administration would reach out to lower-level immigration officers.
Other education and immigrant advocacy organizations have also recently called on Obama to use his executive authority to stop the deportation of young undocumented immigrants who would be eligible for the DREAM Act. In the aftermath of Obama’s speech on immigration, several immigrant advocacy organizations have said the president must lead.
“Our biggest campaign goal is to get Obama to issue an executive order for deferred action for all DREAMers,” Abdollahi adds. “It is something he can do but he doesn’t want to do.”