Officials Urge Immigration Enrollment

Assemblyman Francisco Moya, Jessica Orozco, director of Immigration and Civic Engagement at the Hispanic Federation and U.S. Rep. Grace Meng spoke about the importance to apply and reapply for DACA.

Assemblyman Francisco Moya, Jessica Orozco, director
of Immigration and Civic Engagement at the Hispanic
Federationand U.S. Rep. Grace Meng spoke about
the importance to apply and reapply for DACA.

BY JORDAN GIBBONS
Staff Writer

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) held a press conference Tuesday morning to urge undocumented immigrants in New York to enroll and reapply for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The program implemented by President Barack Obama allows qualified immigrants under the age of 31, who were brought into this country as children illegally, to receive work permits and stay in the United States for two years. This protection allows them to remain safe from deportation.

DACA protections will begin to expire this September but the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security announced last month that it will accept renewal requests for an additional two years.

Meng thanked local immigration advocacy groups who were in attendance for helping undocumented immigrants apply for this program since its inception in 2012.

“I want to say thank you to our wonderful organizations who are here today who have literally been in the neighborhoods, on the ground helping people, helping our young people apply for DACA and making sure they apply for this program to bring them out of the shadows,” Meng said. “Many of these children, many of these youth know no other home except for the United States.”

Approximately 560,000 immigrants have been granted DACA protection, but it is estimated that thousands of immigrants in New York are eligible for the program but have not applied for it yet.

Meng said that only two-thirds of those eligible actually applied, because some people either do not know about the program or are afraid of negative consequences if they do apply.

“Our communities need to spread the word about DACA,” she said.

The Rev. Patrick Keating, CEO of Catholic Migration Services, said that DACA is a glimmer of hope for immigrant children.

He said it gives young people “an opportunity to avoid fear and continue their education, to continue working, to continue being a part of America and continuing to make America great.”

Keating said that while DACA may only be a temporary fix, it is an opportunity for young immigrants.

Renewal applications should be submitted at least 120 days before DACA protections expire to ensure a smooth transition without the possibility for deportation.

Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) said he wanted to remind the youth to reapply.

“This is such a critical and important program and the right step in the right direction for so many undocumented youth,” Moya said. “Especially here in New York. This is the critical step for these young students.”

Grace Shin, executive director of the MinKwon Center for Community Action, said her organization has provided legal assistance to more than 500 applicants to the DACA program since it was announced.

“We encourage everyone to come to us,” Shin said. “We have free legal services. I would highly encourage all the renewals… would renew as early as possible in their window. They do not want to lag in time.”

Shin also advised DACA recipients to consult with an immigration attorney on any other permanent forms of relief that they might be eligible for. She also cautioned against consulting with an immigration specialist or a broker, as they may not be accredited.

“There have been a high number of deportations under President Obama,” Meng said. “We just, in Congress also, emphasize that these are real people that are being deported. I have constituents that are being deported every week, every month, being separated from their families.”

Applicants must prove they were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012 and they came to the United States before reaching their 16th birthday. For additional criteria information, visit www.uscis.gov.

Reach Jordan Gibbons at (718)357-7400 Ext. 123, jgibbons@queenspress.com or @jgibbons2.