By: Tony Best
New York City and state, whether in the City’s five boroughs, the suburbs or upstate is leading the way to ensure that eligible undocumented young immigrants take advantage of President Barack Obama’s immigration initiative that offers a chance to remain in the U.S. without the fear of deportation hanging over the heads.
That, in essence, is the message which federal, state and local officials are sending to undocumented immigrants everywhere now that the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” as the national program is being called, gathers steam in most parts of the country. It was launched on August 15 and will continue indefinitely.
Kristen Clarke, Bureau Chief of the New York State Attorney-General’s office, told hundreds of students, attorneys and others who attended a public information session at Baruch College of the City University of New York that the AG’s office was “deeply committed” to a crackdown on unscrupulous scam artists who would seek to take advantage of those who request the deferral by charging them exorbitant fees to complete the process. Already, she said, they had shut down more than a dozen fraudulent entities and planned to go after others who engage in fraud.
“Individuals can’t expedite the application process and no one can guarantee a deferral,” she warned.
In short, she advised, any one making such promises and receiving a fee would be engaging in fraud and subject to prosecution.
New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo is spending more than $600,000 to provide community organizations and institutions with the expert advice young people need to request the deferral.
To qualify, undocumented immigrants must have arrived in the United States before reaching their 16th birthday; have lived continuously in the country since June 15, 2007; are under the age of 31 years; entered the U.S. without inspection before June 15 this year or their lawful immigration status expired; and are currently in school, have graduated or received a certificate of completion from high school or have a general educational diploma. In addition, they could have been honorably discharged from the armed forces or the Coast Guard. Just as important, the youths shouldn’t have a criminal record or have been convicted of committing a significant misdemeanor or three or more relatively slight brushes with the law.
Fatima A. Sharma, New York City’s immigration commissioner, said that City hall was working alongside community groups to get the word out to young people about their eligibility, the documents which must be completed to request the deferral as well as to avoid the traps being laid for them by unscrupulous individuals planning to fleece students and others out of their hard-earned by making false promises they can’t fulfill.
Between 50,000-60,000 youths in New York were eligible for consideration for the deferral, she said.
Many of those requesting consideration for the deferral, said Andrea J. Quarantillo, District Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in New York City, were in colleges and universities across the City and throughout the and they must be provided with accurate information about the requirements in order to succeed.
“Universities are at the heart of the initiative and the City University of New York immigration advocacy program was” crucial to the outreach activities, she said. “There is a need to fight immigration fraud.”
She was quick to urge applicants to give careful consideration to the request process before making the move because of some of the pitfalls.
“It is a hard decision and a tough call for some people,” was the way she put it.
Quarantillo was also careful to warn that should there be a new Administration in Washington in January, there wasn’t a guarantee that the President Obama initiative would continue. However, the District Immigration chief said that Temporary Protected Status, TPS, had survived changes in the executive branch of the U.S. government.
“TPS has continued even with changes in administration,” she said.
Frank Sanchez, CUNY’s Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, said that the network of colleges had a “long and successful tradition” of helping its students deal with immigration problems and they were fully committed to aiding them with the requests for action for childhood arrivals.