As many as 1.4 million undocumented immigrant youth— aka “DREAMers” — would qualify for temporary work permits and be shielded from deportation once President Obama’s DREAMer relief goes into effect August 15.
I am one of these DREAMers.
I came to this country from Peru when I was five years old. While I miss my homeland, I’ve come also to appreciate and thrive in my new one.
I’ve volunteered in my community at museums, schools, and hospice centers. I’ve had the privilege also of attending one of the top private, liberal arts schools in the nation and now am continuing my education as a mental health counseling graduate student.
President Obama’s DREAMer relief finally will give DREAMers such as me a chance to fully engage in this country. I finally will be able to work and, like the rest of my peers, get to experience the joys and challenges of being gainfully employed.
Last month, Obama announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would stop deporting undocumented youth who meet certain criteria. Those who apply for deportation relief and are approved will be granted what is called “deferred action” by U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS).
This, will make DREAMers eligible for a work permit, a Social Security number, and some protection against deportation.
Though deferred action is not a permanent path to legalization, it is an important start. As the movement for sensible immigration reform continues to grow, this temporary program will be extended until we can achieve a permanent victory in Congress.Lately, I’ve been hearing horror stories about DREAMers who have been tricked by unscrupulous lawyers and phony profit-hungry- advisors (sometimes known as notarios) who are trying to take advantage of Obama’s DREAMer relief.
These scam artists charge large sums of money for unnecessary services and promises that are, quite simply, bold-faced lies.
The truth is that the application process will be simple enough that most DREAMers will be able to apply on their own.That is why we need all the support we can get to disseminate accurate information among our immigrant communities.
Churches and religious leaders have played an integral role in helping to secure our DREAMer relief. Now, we must work together to ensure that our recent victory is put into action.
In an era when it is increasingly difficult to know whom to trust on issues surrounding immigration, faith communities continue to be a safe space and a trusted voice.
Here are five concrete ways that you and your faith community can help ensure that DREAMers in your community benefit from this new program.
1. Connect local DREAMers with regional advocacy groups
DREAMers need to be connected with one another. One of the most important things churches and pastors can do to help young people who may qualify for Obama’s deferred action is to connect them with local DREAMer groups.
The United We DREAM Network is the nation’s largest network of organizations led by immigrant youth. Check outUnited We DREAM’s list of local affiliates working to educate people in your region about Obama’s new immigration policy.
2. Help stop frauds perpetrated against DREAMers
We live in exploitive world where some people are looking to take advantage of others. Within days of Obama’s deferred action announcement, fraudulent ads immediately appeared claiming to offer work permits before the official process was even created.
Stay alert and keep an eye out for dishonest lawyers or notarios. If you come across any suspicious ads, firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “FRAUD ALERT”.
3. Host a community Q&A forum
Already, hundreds of legal community forums to educate DREAMers and their families about Obama’s new immigration policy have been held across the country.
You can find a map with forum locations HERE.
The community at large would be well served if it were educated about the application process in English and Spanish. If your faith community is interested in hosting its own Community Education Forum, you can REGISTER HERE.
4. Ask local radio stations to run Public Service Announcements
Local leaders affiliated with United We Dream are taking to the airwaves with a massive campaign to educate communities about the process for applying for Obama’s deferred action.
You can listen to the UWD PSA’s HERE.
5. Watch and share a webinar
If you want to do more, it’s important that you get educated.
These videos do an excellent job of breaking Obama’s new policy down into easily understood bites.
You also can help get the word out by sharing this link on Facebook.
Mariella Saavedra is Peruvian, an aspiring citizen of the United States, and a mental health counseling graduate student at Columbia University who is interning at America’s Voice Education Fund as a part of DREAM Summer.