Helen Jugovic, one of the 23 board-certified immigration lawyers in North Carolina, addressed immigration reform on Monday November 26th. With the purpose of shedding a light on the needs of undocumented students and how present-day immigration legislation lacks to meet those needs, Jugovic highlighted a set of policies that are already benefiting undocumented students, but do not provide a promising path towards citizenship.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is a policy adopted this past June by the Department of Homeland Security. “Security, lets young people apply for a two-year deferral from deportation if they were under the age of 16 when they arrived in the United States and have lived here for five years. Qualified applicants also must currently be in school, have graduated from high school, have a GED certificate, or have honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or U.S. Armed Forces. They must be under 30 and have no record of serious crime. Deferrals are temporary but can be renewed.”
However, it doesn’t grant lawful immigration status or provide a path to citizenship. Therefore, for the early 309,000 young people who have have applied for the deferral since August their opportunities toward permanent residency in the country is still hampered.
Similarly, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status is a program that is designed to help foreign-born children who have been abused, abandoned or neglected. Although children can obtain residency through the program, they cannot petition for their parents’ residency and need to obtain citizenship to petition for their siblings. Therefore, obtaining legal status would be futile in their attempts to integrating permanently in the country, considering that as minors they depend on their parents and on their family. Their documentation does not guarantee these children that their parents will not face deportation, and inevitably having to move back to their homelands with their family because they cannot provide for themselves. Most likely if one member of the family is deported the rest of the family will follow, even if it is a minor, because as a family they depend on one another or have others who depend on them.
Jugovic emphasizes the fact that many undocumented students cannot see their lives anywhere else, but in the United States. Jugovic proclaims, “They can’t go back to Mexico, can’t emigrate to other countries, and many don’t even speak Spanish. They can’t get a job and can’t go to school. We’ve got to do something to help them.”
On the other hand, the DREAM act, would be serve undocumented students a brighter pathway towards a successful future in the U.S. and even citizenship. “The DREAM act would guarantee a six-year conditional path to citizenship for undocumented young people who were under 16 when they came to the United States and who complete a college degree or two years of active military service. There are up to 2.1 million undocumented children in the U.S. who might be eligible under the DREAM act, according to the immigration service.”
In 2010, the DREAM act failed to in pass the Senate, although it had majority support. What can we do as a nation so that our next Congress addresses immigration? Will the next Congress be more willing to pass comprehensive immigration reform, or will we see more luck pushing for smaller immigration policies, or nothing at all?
Read more about this here.