Undocumented teens consider Obama plan to defer deportation

Maria is one of dozens of Fremont students who were brought to America as children and do not have legal papers.

Maria, who did not want her real name used, says that without legal papers she has “felt distant from everyone else.”

But now Maria, along with many others at Fremont, is weighing the options about a new program from President Barack Obama that could give her a work permit and temporary relief from potential deportation.

With the “Deferred Action” program, Maria feels that she finally “got a sense of [her] rights back.”

The program, considered an alternative to the failed DREAM Act, is aimed at providing two-year work permits and allowing young immigrants to avoid deportations.

Run by the Department of Homeland National Security, Deferred Action has received 82,000 applications nationwide, and yet only 29 had been approved as of last week, according to Fox News.

Certain requirements must be met in order to apply: Applicants must have first come to the United States before they were 16 years old and must be at least 30 years old or younger without a criminal record. They have to be a high school or college student or graduate, or have served in the military for two or more years.

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney had previously threatened to veto the DREAM Act and get undocumented immigrants to deport themselves. On Obama’s plan, he had been avoiding questions. However, now he says he will honor the visas that immigrants receive through Obama’s program if he wins the election on Nov. 6, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Even so, many students remain skeptical about what Romney would do.

“I will apply to Deferred Action, but I have to wait until after the election is over because if Romney is elected,” said an undocumented student from Fremont High who did not want to be identified. “I’m scared he could deport us.”

Others are simply frustrated that the approval process is taking so long.

“Students deserve to get approved at a faster rate because most of the kids didn’t have a choice,” said another student.

Those from California who get approved by the federal program now have another opportunity. On Sept. 30, Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 2189 into law, allowing those who qualify for the Deferred Action program to apply to a California drivers licence.

An undocumented Fremont senior from Mexico, said this marks an important change for people like him.

“A car is very important in this environment, we need to be mobile so we can get to places like our jobs, school, and so on,” he said.

Not only could the federal program and state law bring some undocumented their first chance to drive cars legally, it also could let them leave the country freely without fear of being blocked from getting back into the United States later.

“Applying to Deferred Action has gotten me closer to reaching my dream: traveling the world,” said Maria, who came to America when she was nine.

While some say there is a certain downside to Deferred Action because it forces applicants to expose information that could be used later to deport them, Maria thinks the risks are worth it.

“Students at Fremont should approach the opportunity and apply in order to have a better future,” said Maria.