The next step: Children brought to U.S. by undocumented immigrant parents can apply for 'deferred action' starting Aug. 15

Published: Monday, Aug. 6 2012 10:00 p.m. MDT

Roman Gonzalez, 17, takes a break from landscaping work to pose for a portrait in Draper on Monday, Aug. 6, 2012.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

DRAPER —  Come Aug. 15, Roman Gonzalez will take a step he hopes will help secure his future. Gonzalez, a recent high school graduate who was brought to the United States from Latin America when he was 11 years old, will begin the process of applying to stay in the country without threat of deportation.

In June, the Department of Homeland Security announced it would create a process to allow children brought into the United States by undocumented parents to apply for "deferred action" on removal or deportation proceedings if they meet certain criteria. One of the newly published requirements is that applicants must be enrolled in school or have graduated from high school.

Gonzalez, 17, recently graduated from Copper Hills High School. If his application is accepted, he won't have to worry about his status while attending Salt Lake Community College, he said.

"Hopefully they can find a way to make it a bigger thing so you don't have to renew it every two years," Gonzalez said.

"Deferred action" is not legal status. It means that federal immigration authorities will defer removal actions as an act of prosecutorial discretion for a two-year period. Applications can be renewed without limit, according to new guidelines released by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

"This is a temporary measure," explained Mark Alvarez, a Salt Lake immigration attorney and Spanish radio talk show host.

President Barack Obama made the announcement June 15 and issued an executive order for its implementation. Those implementation plans were announced by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Friday.

Deferred action is not a replacement of the Dream Act – the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act which would offer a pathway to education, careers and citizenship. But it offers an estimated  1.4 million people nationwide a chance at school and careers in hopes of a more permanent resolution to immigration issues in the future.

"Deferred action is part of the court process in deportation and removal cases. What is new is applying this so broadly and in a systematic way," Alvarez said.

Utah advocates are urging people who may be eligible to apply to attend free upcoming workshops to learn more about eligibility, costs and necessary documentation.

Total fees for the application are $465 — $85 for a background check and $380 to apply for Employment Authorization Document.

People can apply consideration of deferred action if they:

• Were under age 31 on June 15, 2012;

• Entered the United States before their 16th birthday;

• Resided in the United States continuously since June 15, 2007;

• Entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or their lawful immigration status expired on June 15, 2012;

• Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a GED certificate or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard, or Armed Forces of the United States;

• Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

For the full guidelines, go to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' website at www.uscis.gov

The federal agency is already cautioning against scams by people purporting they can expedite the application process. It is likewise spelling out the penalties associated with fraudulent applications.

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