Homeland Security needs community support to help immigrant youth

SEEKING SUPPORT --- Alejandro Mayorkas (at podium), deputy secretary of Homeland Security told immigration advocates the agency is fully committed to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) during a mid-morning June 11 meeting at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services Los Angeles District Office downtown. (Doris Benavides)

Distrust, fear, and lack of information discourage young undocumented immigrants from applying for temporary legal relief, according to a Homeland Security official.

Alejandro Mayorkas, deputy secretary of Homeland Security, called on Los Angeles immigration advocates, lawyers and beneficiaries to help.

The agency is preparing for the renewal process of the current Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) holders. Undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children with their undocumented parents may be eligible for DACA.

“We are committed to this program,” Mayorkas told a standing-room only June 11 at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Los Angeles District Office downtown. “We want to partner with you to see who could be reachable and reach even those difficult to reach.”

About 600,000 young people who have pursued education or military services have applied to the DACA, but there are still nearly 400,000 eligible youth who have not applied since the application process began nearly two years ago, according to reports.

Advocates said the time frame, 120 days, requested to submit the paperwork might be a hindrance.

“Getting a birth certificate in Mexico could take a lot of time,” an immigration advocate told the Mayorkas. She suggested a deadline extension. Mayorkas explained that the agency thinks it is necessary for people to start the application process on time and “not wait until 60 or 30 days before the time expires.”

Advocates and beneficiaries want DACA to be a permanent document, but Mayorkas said the agency would have to evaluate the progress of each individual.

“DACA doesn’t really provide a permanent relief. We are still not stable,” DACA beneficiary Edna Monroy told Mayorkas. She said it took her nine months to receive her document after applying within the time frame.

“We do not know what will happen four years from now and in the meantime families are living in limbo,” she said.

Advocates also suggested seeking more educational avenues to inform the public about the application process and to reach those who are not aware of it and their eligibility.

The Homeland Security official said the agency will work closely with embassies, consulates and schools, as well as certain media outlets to offer information about the process requirements and legal services available.

In the meantime, DACA holders will receive a reminder within 100 days before their document expires.

Full story of this event will run in the June 20 Tidings.


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