In June, some people dreaming of a future in the United States had renewed optimism after President Barack Obama issued an executive order that defers legal action against young undocumented immigrants. But the relief is temporary, and the process confusing.
Puente de la Costa Sur hosted a community meeting at Pescadero Elementary Monday. The social services organization on the South Coast partnered with a pair of attorneys from Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto to discuss the complexities of the order.
“It can be really confusing for people -— immigrants and non-immigrants … there’s a lot of gray areas,” said Molly Dow, a social media and communications assistant at Puente. “Each case is so different. It’s hard to make a blanket rule.”
Attorneys Rosa Gomez and David Pasternak worked to clear up rumors. While children quietly sketched on notebook paper or leaned on their older family members’ shoulders, parents listened closely to a presentation primarily conducted in Spanish.
The new rules don’t grant legal status. It’s not amnesty. It’s not the Dream Act. But it does buy up to two years time and make individuals eligible for a work permit who are in the proceedings for deportation.
To be eligible to apply, candidates must be 15 to 30 years old, have entered the United States before the age of 16, lived in the country continuously for at least five years, have not been convicted of a significant crime, and be enrolled in or graduated from high school, attained a GED or honorably discharged from the armed forces.
Participants in Monday’s discussion had questions. What about someone who is 32-years-old, but meets all other criteria? How can you be discharged from the armed forces if it’s necessary to be a citizen to enlist?
Gomez and Pasternak admitted that sometimes even they don’t know the answers to the questions because the program is so new, but that applications will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and exceptions may be granted.
Rita Mancera, a program director at Puente, encouraged families with mixed legal status to make their voices heard on behalf of their loved ones.
Uncertainty remains, so the attorneys advise learning as much as possible.
“Find reputable sources. Find good sources and people with good intent … It goes back to being as well informed as you can,” said Dow.
Despite the complications, Kerry Lobel, Puente’s executive director, said that the program is a step in the right direction.
“You go through our amazing schools and are treated just like everyone else … At age 16, you’re a criminal,” Lobel said.
These students are capable and bright, but they are not entitled to the same rights and responsibilities as legal students, including documentation like a driver’s license, she explained.
Although it has not yet been determined, Lobel thinks the policy could allow applicants to obtain a license, which gives them a better chance of being able to work and live here successfully.
“There are dozens of young people on the Coastside living in the shadows. This (program) is a beginning for them to live a normal life,” she said.
For more information, call Puente at (650) 879-1691.