New US immigration policy could benefit thousands from the Caribbean
WASHINGTON, USA, Friday August 17, 2012 — Thousands of illegal Caribbean immigrants stand to benefit from a new immigration programme that will allow them to avoid deportation and obtain work permits in the United States.
On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced details of documents that illegal immigrants would need to prove that they are eligible for the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The announcement came a day before US Citizenship and Immigration Services began accepting applications for the programme and sparked a rush to organize paperwork by those eager to participate.
The administration’s plan is to stop deporting many illegal immigrants who were brought to the US as children. To be eligible, immigrants must prove they arrived in the United States before they turned 16, are 30 or younger, have been living in the US for at least five years and are in school or graduated or served in the military. They also cannot have been convicted of certain crimes or otherwise pose a safety threat.
According to the guidelines announced on Tuesday, proof of identity and eligibility could include a passport or birth certificate, school transcripts, medical and financial records and military service records.
The DHS said that in some instances, multiple sworn affidavits, signed by a third party under penalty of perjury, could also be used. Anyone found to have committed fraud will be referred to federal immigration agents, the department said.
Alejandro Mayorkas, director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, stressed that being approved to avoid deportation "does not provide lawful status or a path to citizenship."
The paperwork for the program can be downloaded from the Immigration Services website. Applicants must pay a $465 fee and provide proof of identity and eligibility.
A decision on each application could take several months, and immigrants have been warned not to leave the country while their application is pending. If they are allowed to stay in the United States and want to travel internationally, they will need to apply for permission to come back into the country, a request that would cost $360 more.
Advocacy groups across the United States are planning events starting this week to help immigrants fill out their applications and get all their paperwork in order.
The Migration Policy Institute and the Pew Hispanic Center estimate that as many as 1.7 million people could be eligible to stay in the US and legally work under the new policy.
DHS officials have said repeatedly they don't have an estimate of how many people may apply. In an internal document outlining the program's implementation, officials estimated 1.04 million people would apply in the first year and about 890,000 would be eligible.
The document, obtained by The Associated Press, estimated that the program could cost between $467.7 million and $585.4 million. The department anticipated collecting about $484.2 million in fees.
Hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants could unquestionably benefit from the programme, which President Barack Obama announced in June. The programme is beginning just months before what promises to be a tight contest for the White House in which the Hispanic vote may play an important role.
Obama has come under fire from Hispanic voters and others who say he hasn't fulfilled a previous campaign promise to overhaul the nation's immigration laws. The new policy could stop deportations for more than 1 million young illegal immigrants who would have qualified for the failed DREAM Act, formally the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act, which Obama has supported in the past.
Republican lawmakers have accused Obama of circumventing Congress with the new program in an effort to boost his political standing and of favouring illegal immigrants over unemployed US citizens.