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Little Celebration of Deferred Action Anniversary by AZ Dreamers

PHOTO: According to the Migration Policy Institute, slightly more than a million young undocumented immigrants are eligible for Deferred Action and just about half have applied. CREDIT: Berkeley Political Review
PHOTO: According to the Migration Policy Institute, slightly more than a million young undocumented immigrants are eligible for Deferred Action and just about half have applied. CREDIT: Berkeley Political Review
August 15, 2013

PHOENIX - It's been a year since President Obama ordered creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which grants legal status to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. Some 15,000 Arizona young people have been approved for work permits and protection from deportation since then.

However, according to volunteer Kat Sinclair with Keep Tucson Together, thousands more are choosing to remain in the shadows, out of fear.

"And for other people, they feel like it is a risk that they have to take because they have children," she said. "They have to support their family. I mean, what else are they going to do?"

Sinclair works with a legal clinic that has helped more than 500 so-called "DREAMers" apply for Deferred Action. She said the biggest frustrations among those approved involve their continuing denial of access to driver's licenses and in-state tuition.

DREAMers still get no break on tuition at Arizona state universities, and Attorney General Tom Horne is suing the Maricopa Community Colleges for granting DREAMers in-state tuition. Then there's the denial of driver's licenses, which Governor Jan Brewer is defending in court. Sinclair said it makes no sense to block DREAMers from registering their cars or buying insurance.

"I don't understand it at all," she declared. "It just seems mean-spirited to me, and, like, not in the interest of public safety."

Arizona is one of only two states that deny licenses to Deferred-Action recipients. Sinclair said the inability to legally drive forces tough decisions on what kinds of jobs DREAMers can accept with their work permits.

"Is there a bus line near my job? Can I take a job without a bus line near it? Am I going to risk getting pulled over and having to pay a huge ticket for driving without a license?"

Sinclair said the number-one reason most DREAMers seek Deferred Action status is to further their education.

"That's what most of them talk about when they talk about why they want a work permit on their worksheets that are being sent to the government," she said. "They all talk about wanting, like, 'I want to go to school. And I want to be able to save money to go to college.' So, that's the DREAMer dream."

Nationwide, the Migration Policy Institute estimates there are 1.9 million immigrants who are potentially eligible for the Deferred Action program.

More information is at MigrationPolicy.org.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ