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Obama Reelection Could Lead to Spike in Deportation Deferrals

PHOTO: The Obama administration’s new “Deferred Action” program gives young undocumented immigrants temporary permission to live and work in the US.
PHOTO: The Obama administration’s new “Deferred Action” program gives young undocumented immigrants temporary permission to live and work in the US.
September 28, 2012

EL PASO, Texas – The Obama administration's new Deferred Action program gives young undocumented immigrants temporary permission to live and work in the United States, although fewer than 100,000 of the 1.5 million who qualify have applied for relief. One reason for the program's slower-than-expected start is that many so-called DREAMers are wary of exposing their status to a new administration.

Jacob Hernandez, a 21-year-old Mexican architecture student, has lived in El Paso since he was five. He says he and his friends worry about what a President Romney would do with applicants' information.

"If he's elected president, he could just say, 'Okay, you know what? I want everybody out.' That's why the people are scared. It's not safe, because the first people who they're going to take out are the ones that they have the documentation on."

Critics of Deferred Action call it 'backdoor amnesty,' accusing President Obama of making an end-run around Congress with the measure. Romney has yet to declare whether he would uphold it, saying he wants a more permanent approach.

Myrna Orozco, field director for United We Dream, says she knows of hundreds in her community alone who aren't yet comfortable applying.

"I've visited various attorneys, and people have stacks of applications waiting for November 6 to pass. So, I do expect that there would be a bigger spike in applicants after the elections."

She lists other reasons DREAMers are waiting: The application process is involved, there's a $465 fee, and many fear the possible "outing" of family members.

While she's critical of President Obama's failure to push promised immigration reforms through Congress, Orozco sees Romney as a wild card.

"Especially because he said he would veto a permanent solution like the DREAM Act. So, I don't know what his solution is. He fails to give us a solution - just kind of flip-flopping depending on who he's talking to."

Romney also angered many Latinos when he suggested he would make life so difficult for undocumented immigrants they would choose to "self deport."

To qualify for Deferred Action, applicants must have been brought to the U.S. before they were 16, and prove they have lived in the country continuously for the past five years. El Paso DREAMer Jacob Hernandez says it could be a first step for people like him, who hope one day to be fully accepted in their communities.

"I worked here all my life. I've studied. I see myself as an American and as a good citizen. And I hope that happens some day, but I'm still in the struggle for it, and I'm not giving up."

Deferred Action could provide deportation relief and work permits to an estimated 170,000 in Texas. Estimates by state from the Migration Policy Institute are at migrationpolicy.org.

Peter Malof, Public News Service - TX