Richfield, MN - Around 100 people attended an informational workshop on July 22 to learn more about the ‘deferred action’ policy that will allow some undocumented youth to avoid deportation and to get a two-year work permit. The workshop, held at Assumption Church, was sponsored by the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAc) and La Mision.
Immigration lawyer and National Lawyers Guild member Rachel Lang explained the details of the new policy that President Obama announced on June 15. The deferred action policy is not a new law and does not lead to permanent residency or citizenship for immigrant youth. Nor is it the DREAM Act. It’s simply a new temporary policy and this president or the next president could change or cancel it at any moment. But despite the limitations of the policy, it’s the first substantive motion toward legalization and away from repression against immigrants since the amnesty that Congress and President Reagan approved in 1986. President Obama announced this new policy under pressure from undocumented immigrant youth protesting and occupying his campaign offices in several cities across the country demanding that he take action.
Rachel Lang explained that to qualify for this new policy, a person needs to have come to the U.S. when they were under 16 years old, they have to have lived here for five years, they have to be in high school, have a high school degree or be pursuing a GED or have a GED. They also have to not have been convicted of several types of crimes and must not be considered a threat to “national security.” There are many different particular situations and many details of the new policy that are still unknown because the specific rules and the application forms won’t come out until mid-August.
Emilia, a representative NAVIGATE, also spoke at the event. NAVIGATE is a group organized by immigrant youth to help other immigrant youth overcome barriers to staying in school and to help them apply to and get into college. She said that this new policy comes after many years of collective struggle by immigrant youth and this shows that collectivity and organization are the keys to winning victories in the struggle. She also emphasized that this is only the first step and that the community needs to get more organized to continue the struggle for permanent legalization for youth who qualify for the two-year deferred action, and also to fight for legalization for their parents and the rest of the community who doesn’t qualify for deferred action.
Israel Esquivel of the Mexican consulate also spoke at the workshop about the services that the consulate has for people from the Mexican community applying for deferred action.
William Martinez, a MIRAc member who helped organize the forum, said, “We’re happy that a lot of people came to learn about this new policy. We’re going to keep working with the community to inform everyone. The struggle continues to stop deportations, not just of students but also of their parents and families. We hope everyone will participate to continue educating and mobilizing our community and our allies. That’s how we’ll win.”