Rosendo Mercado, 19, of Caldwell, is pursuing an accounting degree at Treasure Valley Community College. Hes unlikely to get a job after graduation unless he can put his immigration status on hold through a new federal program that opened for applications Wednesday.
Rosendo and his 18-year-old sister, Diana, were among more than 50 people who crowded into a Nampa meeting room Wednesday evening to learn about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals at an informational event hosted by Catholic Charities of Idaho, the Idaho Community Action Network and Andrade Legal.
This will help me get a job, Rosendo said. I was worried about what I was going to do.
Many people who attended the meeting are young adults who came to the United States with their families when they were children, speak fluent English and think of themselves as Americans. But they do not have legal status.
These are people who are here through no fault of their own and have already shown their promise, immigration attorney Maria Andrade said. Many dont find out theyre not U.S. citizens until they try to get a drivers license or try to get financial aid (for college).
The Deferred Action program, enacted by President Barack Obama on June 15, is expected to allow more than 1 million illegal immigrants between the ages of 15 and 30 to work or study here without fear of deportation for two years. With a legal work permit, they can obtain a Social Security number and a drivers license.
Several of the speakers at Wednesdays event said the program is a great first step but a far cry from comprehensive reform. It is seen as a limited, short-term version of the DREAM Act, which, if approved by Congress, would provide conditional permanent residency to young people who meet standards of behavior, education and at least five years of U.S. residency.
Im a dreamer, and Im ready to apply, declared 25-year-old Galo Albor, an honors graduate of Homedale High School who is studying business and economics at Boise State University.
Karen Lopez carried a folder full of detailed documentation with her, including a paper bearing copies of her student IDs. Now 19, she has lived in Idaho since she was about 6 and has never revisited Mexico, she said.
Medical records and documentation of sports or church activities also can prove continued residency, Andrade said.
Applicants dont need to consult an attorney to help with the process, Andrade said, but its a good idea for anyone who has had contact with law enforcement.
She urged families not to seek help from notary publics or others who are not certified to offer immigration law services.
Andrade said people pop up offering to help with documents for a fee but often are unqualified and ill-informed. Families need to be careful before handing over money and confidential information, she said.
Kristin Rodine: 377-6447
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