Some Questions and Answers on Deferred Action

Kristen Clarke (left), civil rights chief for the New York Attorney General, Fatima Shama, city immigrant affairs commissioner, and Andrea Quarantillo, U.S. Customs and Immigration Services director of New York City. (Photo by Felipe Cabrera)

Mauricio Rodriguez, a 21-year-old Bronx resident, was at yesterday’s city briefing on the new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals plan to find out more about the program. But he had no doubt that he’d apply for a two-year reprieve from the threat of deportation.

“It’s the simple stuff,” he explained. “Getting to drive. Getting a better life, better finances.”

Government officials and representatives from the City University of New York convened at the Baruch Performing Arts Center at 25th Street and Lexington Avenue early Thursday to discuss President Barack Obama’s initiative, under which young undocumented immigrants who can show military or educational achievement and clean criminal records can request a deferment, allowing them two years of legal status.

“I’ve been waiting for this all my life,” said Rodriguez. “I’m a dreamer.”

City and federal officials offered pointers to potential applicants and took questions from the audience. Fatima Shama, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, addressed deferred action requirements related to city schools and health services.

To have a request for deferred action approved, she said, an applicant must provide both school and immunization records. Applicants should visit their former schools for academic records and call the Department of Health and Mental Illness to request immunization records, via the city’s 311 service.

Some audience members expressed concerns about the security of personal information, and asked whether the applications would reveal information that could wind up hurting family members. According to a representative of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, data will not be passed along for immigration enforcement unless an applicant or family member is deemed a security threat.

Martín Lopez, 25, asked whether it was a problem if applicants had arrived in the United States using false documentation. According to the representative of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, past entry into the United States with false documentation isn’t a deal-breaker. Criminal records, however, including DUI convictions, could cause problems.

Lopez works for the New York State Youth Leadership Council, an undocumented-led group whose work Voices of NY has noted in the past.

Kristen Clarke, head of the Civil Rights Bureau at the New York Attorney General’s Office, advised immigrants beware of fraudsters trying to take advantage of them. Avoid those who offer expedited requests for deferment, she said. They’re trying to rip you off.

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