How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

'I have a quick question...': Questions from deferred action applicants pour in

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A post from last week with a few basics on who can apply for deferred action, a form of temporary legal status under a new policy benefiting young undocumented immigrants, has drawn more than150 comments so far.

Most of these have been questions from hopeful applicants. What has resulted is a broad question-and-answer forum on the site, with several people providing the answers, some less correct than others.

As more questions come in, I've passed them along to an immigration attorney, who has been posting answers directly to the comment thread.

The application process is complicated, requiring extensive documentation proving that applicants meet age, residency and other requirements. Among other things, they must have entered the United States prior to turning 16, have lived here for five consecutive years, have a record free of serious criminal offenses and have been no older than 30 as of last June 15.


Posts of the week: Deferred action, life as an American Sikh, Latino identity and the census, the plight of 'elder DREAMers,' more


Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A man holds a list of guidelines during a workshop on deferred action at the Mexican consulate in Los Angeles, Aug. 14, 2012

A historic change in U.S. immigration policy occurred this week as young undocumented immigrants began applying on Wednesday for deferred action, a form of temporary legal status that is part of a new Obama administration policy. Well over a million people could qualify, and could also be eligible for work permits if they meet the requirements.

Most of the reporting this week focused on this, with a few extras. In case you missed any of these, a few highlights from the week:


‘And what do you call yourself…?’: Readers on the census and ethnic identity The U.S. Census Bureau has proposed changing how Latinos self-identify on census forms, potentially making them an exclusive category regardless of race. A few reactions from readers.


'Dream' jobs: Deferred action begins Wednesday (Audio) No Multi-American posts for Tuesday, as I was on radio duty, but this report from the Mexican consulate in Los Angeles took in some of anticipation before the start of deferred action as hopeful applicants attended a workshop.


'In the shadows without hope': On being too old for deferred action


Photo by stevechihos/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Since Wednesday, young undocumented immigrants have been filling out and sending in applications for deferred action, a form of temporary legal status under a new Obama administration plan that will allow those who qualify to obtain work permits and be protected from deportation, at least for two years until they have to renew.

But for some who would otherwise qualify, the news came a little too late. Among other requirements, like having a clean record and having resided in the United States for at least five years, applicants need to have been under 16 when they arrived in the country, and must have been no older than 30 when the policy was announced last June 15.

A post last month titled "You're too old for deferred action - now what?" addressed what might happen to those who missed the age criteria, but have still been in the U.S. since they were children. The final rules were not out yet then, leaving room for a small amount of hope for these so-called "elder DREAMers," so named because they would have benefited from the original Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act introduced in 2001.


'My hope is...': Five deferred action hopefuls on why they're applying, or not

deferred action bro sis

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Twenty-year-old Claudia Naranjo, right, consults with her brother, Juan, during a deferred action workshop at the Mexican consulate in Los Angeles, August 14, 2012

Over the last few days, my KPCC colleague Ruxandra Guidi and I have spoken with several young people planning to apply for deferred action, temporary legal status that will allow those who qualify to avoid deportation for two years and obtain a work permit.

The new policy, announced two months ago by the Obama administration, isn't a cure-all for young undocumented immigrants, some of whom have been here since infancy. There is no path to citizenship or permanent legal status, for starters, and there is no guarantee the program will continue long-term, especially if there is a change of administration.

Deferred action must also be renewed every two years. The requirements are strict: Among other things, applicants must have arrived in the U.S. before turning 16, have been no older than 30 as of last June 15, have a clean record and be able to prove they have been living in the United States for at least five years.


One big deferred action challenge: How does one prove they've lived in the U.S. for 5 years?


Photo by pinprick/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Copies of bills, such as utility bills, are among the documents that deferred action applicants can use to help document five years of residence in the U.S.

During the past two months, ever since the Obama administration announced it would allow young undocumented immigrants to apply for temporary legal status starting today, perhaps the most onerous part of the process for applicants has been procuring the paperwork they'll need to document that they meet the requirements for eligibility.

The requirements are strict. Along with their application, sent in by mail, applicants filing Form-I821D need to provide paper-trail evidence. According to instructions posted yesterday on, the website of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, deferred action applicants must file "evidence and supporting documents" showing they:

Entered the U.S. without inspection before last June 15, or had their lawful immigration status expire as of that date; are at least 15 at the time of filing the application; arrived in the U.S. before age 16; were born after June 15, 1981 (were not age 31 or older on June 15, 2012); have continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007; were present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012.