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Doors Open for Young Michigan Immigrants- But Will They Stay Open?

June 18, 2012

DETROIT - Juan Sancen, 18, is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. His parents brought him to Detroit when he was 12. He just graduated second-highest in his class from Chavez High School, but feared that being undocumented would prevent him from getting into college. When he heard about President Obama's decision, announced Friday, to stop deporting young, undocumented immigrants like him, he felt relieved.

"I was really surprised and happy. I want to pursue my education in this country. In fact, I just got an email from an MIT admissions officer."

He says if he gets into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he'll be closer to realizing his dream of becoming a physicist.

Susan Reed, supervising attorney with the Michigan Immigration Rights Center, explains that the Obama administration will be placing young immigrants like Juan on what is called "deferred action status," which means they will be the lowest priority for deportation.

"People who have deferred action are also eligible for work authorization. Then they'll get an employment authorization document."

Reed says the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will be releasing details this week about how to get the deferment. The policy change will affect 800,000 immigrants in Michigan and around the nation who were brought to the U.S. before they turned 16, who are younger than 30 years old and who have no criminal record.

Reed says while this is clearly a step forward for immigrants, she is only cautiously optimistic.

"If the president were to change his mind or a new president were to come into office, this program could be terminated instantly."

This new policy does not guarantee a path to citizenship, unlike the "Dream Act," which Congress has not been able to pass. Reed says she would like the next steps to be passing the "Dream Act" and comprehensive immigration reform. Republican leaders say they will not reform immigration law until border security is tightened.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - MI