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Texas “DREAMers” Facing Scammers and Unknown Risks

GRAPHIC: Young undocumented immigrants in Texas now have an online clearinghouse for weighing the potential risks and benefits of applying for the new Department of Homeland  Security’s “deferred action” program.
GRAPHIC: Young undocumented immigrants in Texas now have an online clearinghouse for weighing the potential risks and benefits of applying for the new Department of Homeland Security’s “deferred action” program.
August 20, 2012

AUSTIN, Texas - The federal program allowing certain young, undocumented immigrants to apply for temporary legal status just rolled out last week, but it's already generating excitement - and uncertainty - in Texas immigrant communities. Because "deferred-action status" is brand new, applicants are finding it challenging to weigh potential risks and benefits, according to legal advocates such as Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid communications director Cynthia Martinez.

"That's why the best thing that anyone considering applying can do is to make sure that they get educated and to speak to someone - to an immigration attorney or an accredited representative - who can help them look at their specific situation."

She says anyone with a criminal history - or even a minor traffic violation - might want to seek legal advice before embarking on the lengthy application process. The fear is that, by alerting the government to their undocumented status, applicants could trigger their own deportation. Martinez' organization recently created a website for Texas residents trying to decide whether to take the plunge: www.DreamersRights.org. It is a clearinghouse of resources and information about the program.

An estimated 1.3 million young "DREAMers" around the country are eligible. Tens of thousands have already decided to accept the potential risks, hoping their applications will lead to work authorizations, Social Security numbers, in-state rates for college tuition and driver's licenses. With such tempting rewards, Martinez says, potential applicants are fast becoming targets for scammers.

"People out there are saying, 'I can help you with this; I have special connections to immigration officials; I can guarantee that your deferred-action application will be approved, but in return you need to pay me so many thousands of dollars.'"

Many Texas residents can find low-cost assistance from qualified attorneys and advisers whose credentials can easily be verified online, she says, adding that the website provides tips for avoiding scams, as well as full details on who qualifies for deferred-action status.

More information is available at www.DreamersRights.org.

Peter Malof, Public News Service - TX