By Claire Harlin
Only three weeks before the U.S. government announced its biggest amnesty action since the 1980s — deferred action — a group at the Solana Beach Presbyterian Church formed to help the community with citizenship and immigration issues.
On Aug. 28, the North County Immigration and Citizenship Center held a meeting to advise those looking to apply for deferred action, which started on Aug. 15 and relieves law-abiding youth of deportation, also allowing them to work legally. The application process is extensive, with some documents being hard to track down, and applicants only get one chance.
Under the program, which is geared toward undocumented youth who came into the country at a young age and have been attending school, applicants can apply for a driver’s license or Social Security number if granted status — meaning it’s time to stop using a fake Social for those who have been.
“A lot of people applying ask, ‘I’ve been working under another Social Security number. Should I tell them?’ The answer is ‘yes;’ the government already knows that,” said Doug Stinson, who helped moderate the meeting.
He reiterated that the program is not a step toward citizenship or permanent residence, it’s not a change in immigration law or an executive order that could change if a new president is elected. He also clarified that it is not the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors).
Those applying for deferred action must be at least 15 and must have arrived in the United States before the age of 16. They must also have a clean criminal record, save for minor offenses. They also have to show that they are either in high school or have graduated from high school.
The more complicated part of the application — and Stinson recommends each applicant seek attorney review because of this — involved proving five years of presence in the country, from June 2007 to the present. This might be a passport with admission stamp or travel records, but most commonly applicants will seek out school records, such as report cards or transcripts. He said signed affidavits from friends and family saying the applicant was living in the country will work as supplemental documents, but not as primary required documents.
“It can be really hard to show proof of presence,” he said. “In other immigration cases, lawyers say the government wants to see a record of presence every 90 days.”
Stinson recommends that people apply “smart not fast,” because if it is incomplete or inaccurate it will most likely lead to rejection, and there’s no appeal process or opportunity to submit more documents once the application is in.
“We recommend that everyone sit down with an immigration lawyer for at least a consultation and show them,” he said, adding that completion is vital. “If you have five traffic tickets, you must put them all out there. You don’t get a second chance and information that is missing could be used as a reason to reject the application.”
He also stressed that applicants do not go to “notarios or visa-fixers” who may advertise that they can help with the application process.
“Don’t waste time and money with anybody other than an immigration lawyer,” he said, adding that lawyer sessions will be offered at the church.
Once received, applicants will receive a notice and then an appointment to get fingerprinted. They will be able to renew the status every two years.
For more information, contact the North County Immigration and Citizenship Center at (760) 486-2422. To contact the church’s Hispanic division, call (858) 509-2580, x1217. For more information about the application process or to apply, visit www.uscis.gov.