Young Undocumented Immigrants Apply For Temporary Work Permits

It's been around six weeks since the Obama administration started an application process for some young illegal immigrants to get temporary work permits. Latest numbers show more than 82,000 people have applied but that number is far fewer than the 1.7 million estimated to be eligible.

Advocates and law students are helping about a hundred undocumented youth with their applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals process. It’s a help session inside an auditorium of former school in the Old Sixth Ward.

View photos on Flickr

High School senior Itzel Cruz came here with her mother. 

“Well, I’m excited and nervous. But hopefully everything will come out good.”

Cruz has no reservations about applying, and many of the young undocumented immigrants that are here at this help session are like her. They’ve waited weeks to apply because it takes time for them to get their hands on school records and other documents that’ll show they’ve been here for at least five continuous years. Twenty-two year-old Cesar Lopez has got a stack of those documents: some paper-clipped together, others with little pink post-it notes.

“Just school transcripts, birth certificates, copies of our school ids, passport …”

Lopez, who wants to become a fine arts teacher, calls this chance to get a two-year work permit a miracle. He says that he’s been depressed in the past because of his undocumented status. And even though he’s uncertain about what will happen to the program in the future, he’s not letting it stop him.

“Even if with my concerns this is the right step towards, you know, something great, so I’m not worrying about the future. I’m just happy that this is happening right now.”

The people coming to this free help session have been pre-screened. They haven’t been arrested, and they haven’t left the U.S. since they came.  Frances Valdez, an immigration attorney with Neighborhood Centers Inc., says she’s been fielding a lot of questions about the program, including what will happen come November.

“This is an election time.  I think a lot of people are worried that Obama did this for political reasons, so with that said what happens if he doesn’t win?  I don’t have an answer for that.”

She says as a lawyer she doesn’t give the certainty that some applicants are looking for, but does arm them with the information that the group has gathered. If approved, they will get a temporary work permit and avoid deportation. And in Texas, according to the Dallas Morning News, those approved could qualify for a temporary driver’s license. Valdez says the approval process is moving faster than she expected.

“That’s happening quickly, and some people are starting to get approved, and I think as people see ‘Oh wow, this is really happening.  I feel like we’re going to have another influx.”

Valdez doesn’t know of anyone who’s been approved in the Houston area. It’s exactly that first round of approvals here that twenty-four-year-old Oscar Hernandez is waiting for. He’s volunteering at this help session, and though he qualifies for the program, he hasn’t applied yet.  Hernandez is concerned. He has some tickets for driving without a license, and he doesn’t know how that’ll play out.

“That’s the only reason why I’m waiting to see how people are accepted and who people are rejected and see how it turns out.  Once I get that information I’ll feel more confident and I have more information to tell people No so this person got accepted despite of and because what not and all that.”

Hernandez says he keeps on changing his mind on whether or not he’ll apply.  But he says that he’ll most likely apply in the next month— or so.


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