Dreamers Dreams Come True

By Lynette Petty

Photograph: Lynette Petty.A child is brought across the border, carried in the arms of his mother. The family settles in Topeka and makes a home for themselves. The child grows up speaking English, attending public schools, making friends, playing sports, learning and enjoying American culture. For all intents and purposes, the child — now a young man — is American. Except he isn't. He is undocumented and could be removed from this country and sent back to a place he does not know. He is a Dreamer. He dreams of one day being able to work and live in the United States without fear of removal.

While surveys show a majority of Americans are sympathetic to this young man's situation and would be in favor of some form of immigration relief for the Dreamers, Congress has not approved legislation to revise the immigration code. On June 15, 2012, President Obama issued a controversial administrative policy allowing Dreamers to apply for deferred action. The Department of Homeland Security was directed to exercise, as appropriate, prosecutorial discretion for those who are approved and not use enforcement resources on these low priority cases. With deferred action also comes eligibility for employment authorization.

The Law Clinic represents young people applying for deferred action as Dreamers. Eligibility requires proof of the following:

  • Being less than 31 years old on June 15, 2012.
  • Having come to the U.S. before the age of 16.
  • Having continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007.
  • Being physically present in the U.S. now and on June 15, 2012.
  • Entering the U.S. without inspection before June 15, 2012 or having lawful immigration status expired as of that date.
  • Having graduated from high school or obtained a GED, being in school or a GED program now, or being honorably discharged from military service in the U.S.
  • Not having a felony conviction, significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanors and not posing a threat to national security.

Interns in the Law Clinic help clients gather documentation to prove the elements of their case and file all of the necessary forms for deferred action. As one can imagine, it is not always easy to come up with an actual document to prove you have been in the United States every month since 2007 or even that you were actually here on the exact day of June 15, 2012. All of these documents must be organized in a logical way to make sure immigration officials will see that each element is met.

Working with Dreamers has been a rewarding experience for our interns. Our clients are grateful for the representation as they navigate an immigration system that can be very intimidating to someone who must come forward and openly reveal his undocumented status.