How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

You’re too old for deferred action – now what? Your questions answered

Photo by stevechihos/Flickr (Creative Commons)

By mid-August, hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants who believe they may qualify for temporary legal status under a new Obama administration policy are expected to begin making their cases for why they should stay.

What they'll be applying for is deferred action, which does not lead to permanent legal status but would at least give them temporary relief for deportation, renewable after two years, and the ability to apply for work permits.

They must meet certain criteria, including that they are no older than 30, have a clean record and have been in the United States continuously for at least five years. But what about those who might otherwise qualify, but are too old?

Young people who meet most criteria but are over 30 or have another slight qualification issue (such as arriving in the U.S. just after the cutoff date) may not be entirely out of luck, Telemundo legal expert and immigration attorney Alma Rosa Nieto said in a Q&A last week. But to see if they stand any chance of relief via deferred action, they must take a wait-and-see approach. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency charged with implementing the policy, is still working out a strategy and there are questions that have yet to be answered.


You’re too old for deferred action – now what?

Photo by Neighborhood Centers/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A young man signs a petition during a deferred action informational event in Houston, Texas, June 20, 2010

It's been more than a month since President Obama announced that his administration would not pursue deportation for some young undocumented immigrants, instead allowing them to apply for deferred action, which would give them temporary legal status and relief from deportation.

If they meet certain criteria, including that they are no older than 30, have a clean record and have been in the United States continuously for at least five years, undocumented young people who arrived in the country before age 16 could be eligible to stay on a renewable temporary basis, and to apply for work permits. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials were tasked with creating a process to accept applications. And as the clocks ticks toward implementation in August, in spite of challenges and concerns about the lack of a permanent solution, many of those who could qualify are hopeful.


When immigrants are crime victims, how much does legal status matter?

Photo by Grant Slater/KPCC

As the scandal surrounding Miramonte Elementary School unfolds, with the school staff being replaced after two teachers were accused of committing lewd acts against children, parents have been drawing together. Some have already sought legal counsel.

But concerns have been brought up as to whether all families in this South Los Angeles community may feel safe coming forward. The neighborhood in which the school sits is one whose demographics have changed over the years, and is now home to many immigrants from Latin America. In a neighborhood that was once primarily black, the student body is now 98 percent Latino, according to the school website. More than half the students are English learners.

As families come forward, some parents have raised questions as to whether everyone who fears their child may have been victimized will speak up, fearing going public with their immigration status. But in cases like these, even parents who lack legal immigration status have certain rights. Telemundo legal expert and immigration attorney Alma Rosa Nieto explains in this Q&A.


'That's just the way it is': Attorneys' difficult conversations with immigration clients (Video)

What is it like, day in and day out, to tell people who come to you for assistance that there's slim chance they can adjust their immigration status or their spouse's? Or to explain a difficult choice to hopeful legal residents: You can come out of the shadows and apply for legal status, but if you're denied, you could be deported.

KPCC videographer Julie Platner recently followed two Los Angeles immigration lawyers, Brigit Alvarez and Telemundo legal expert Alma Rosa Nieto, taking in some of the painful conversations they have with clients. Alvarez, after telling one client that nothing can be done for his undocumented wife unless she leaves the country long-term, said it helps to occasionally receive good news about a case. "It's the good news that keeps me going," Alvarez said.

An administrative policy change proposed last Friday by the Obama administration could help mixed-status families with an undocumented spouse or adult child, possibly preventing those who leave the U.S. to seek a visa from being stranded abroad.