Undocumented “Dreamers” Focus of Statewide Forums

Aug 2, 2012

Immigrant advocates are kicking-off a series of statewide forums Thursday night about Obama’s new policy for so-called “dreamers”. The measure gives temporary legal protection to some undocumented immigrants who came here as children. Federal officials plan to open up the application process later this month, as KUOW’s Liz Jones reports.

In June, federal officials announced a new policy aimed to halt the deportation of some young immigrants. It’ll allow qualified young people to apply for a renewable, 2-year legal protection… and a work permit.

Since the announcement, immigration attorneys around the Northwest say their phones have been ringing off the hook. They say there’s excitement, lots of questions… and some hesitation.

McAteer: “It’s a big, scary step to sign up and send information to the government.”

That’s Charlie McAteer with the Seattle-based group, One America. It’s working with several immigration attorneys to host information sessions around the state. McAteer says they’ll talk about the potential risks to people who apply to the program… and the potential benefits.

McAteer: “This is an opportunity for them to pursue higher education, to get a job, to really become active in their communities. It’s really a life-changing moment.”

The government calls it deferred action. Essentially, it lifts the threat of deportation for these young people, who are often called dreamers. To qualify, they must meet several criteria…like they were brought here before age 16, have a clean record and pursue an education or the military. Federal official are expected to release more policy guidelines this week.

McAteer says many dreamers are anxious to hear more about confidentiality.

McAteer: “Will their information, whether they’re accepted or not, be shared with other federal agencies for example? That’s a big outstanding question.”

Meanwhile, this policy change has drawn criticism from people who push for tighter immigration controls. Some question the move to grant work permits to undocumented immigrants at a time of high unemployment.

One America has scheduled these forums around the state throughout August. It’s also planning to offer free legal clinics later this month, once the federal applications become available.

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio