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Getting a reprieve: Young illegal immigrants see first signs of Obama’s deferred action program

A month ago, Gabriela Tepe was almost out of hope. An immigration appeals court told the 21-year-old Oklahoma State University student that she and her 20-year-old brother, Angel, would need to leave the country by July 3 or face deportation. The siblings, who have lived in Oklahoma City since they were 4 and 2 years old, would be celebrating the Fourth of July in Guatemala, a country they don’t even remember.

“My parents never talked about [Guatemala,]” Gabriela Tepe told Yahoo News. She didn’t find out she wasn’t a U.S. citizen until she was in the fifth grade, and had to do a school project that asked where she was born.

Tepe refused to let herself believe that she would actually have to leave her family, friends and country after a yearslong legal battle to stay. Deeply religious, she was holding out for a miracle. “It really scares us to go back,” she said. “We completely Americanized ourselves over here.”

On June 15, Tepe saw on the news that President Barack Obama had announced that his administration would no longer deport illegal immigrants under the age of 30 who had been brought to the country as children, graduated from high school and committed no serious crimes. “They are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one—on paper,” Obama said then, adding that this class of immigrants had no control over their guardians’ decision to bring them to the country illegally.

Mitt Romney has criticized Obama’s big, election-year announcement, dubbed the deferred action plan, as just a political ploy. Others who favor stricter immigration enforcement say it sends a message that it’s acceptable to come to the country without documentation. But for the estimated 1 million young illegal immigrants who, like Gabriela and Angel, may qualify for the new temporary legal status, the program represents their best shot at a normal life.

When Tepe heard the news, she felt flooded with relief. Her parents, who were granted green cards a few years earlier, and her two younger siblings, both American-born and thus citizens, were finally able to relax.

“It’s just a big miracle,” she said. “God does really do big things when you least expect it. It was down to the wire.”

Doug Stump, Tepe’s lawyer, said that after Obama’s announcement he quickly sent Angel and Gabriela’s information to immigration officials in Washington, and was informed just two days before the Tepes were required to leave that their petition would be granted. The officials also told Stump that his clients were the first in Oklahoma to qualify for Obama’s deferred action program for young people.

“Never did it cross my mind that we would be among the first ones to get it and that it could happen so quickly,” Tepe said.

On Aug. 15, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is scheduled to begin allowing young illegal immigrants to actively apply for legal status and a work permit under the new program. The status would last for two years and be renewable, but applicants will have to prove they entered the country as children, graduated from high school and haven’t committed crimes.

A lot is still unknown about what the process of applying for legal status for these young people will be like, including how much it will cost to apply, what kind of documents applicants will have to provide, or even for how long the program will be offered. Romney hasn’t specifically addressed what he would do to the program if he were elected in November, leaving its fate unclear.

But Stump, who is also the incoming president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, thinks people who want to apply should do so as early as possible, in case backlogs slow the process. He calculates that the USCIS application workload could increase by 25 percent due to the change. (About 4.5 million immigration-related applications were filed with the agency last year, and experts estimate that between 800,000 to 1.4 million people are eligible to apply for this new status.)

The Tepes were able to qualify early because, like nearly 300,000 other immigrants, their immigration cases were already pending in court. The Department of Homeland Security didn’t respond to questions from Yahoo News about how many people have been granted deferred action under the program since its announcement in June.

Tepe, meanwhile, has been enjoying her deportation reprieve. She’s written a letter to her fellow churchgoers, thanking them for their support and for writing letters to Immigration and Customs Enforcement on her behalf. And she’s been working seven days a week as a waitress to help pay for her college courses next year. Her dream: to attend medical school and become a pediatrician. She hopes to practice stateside.

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Breaking News for DREAMers!

Immigration Denver News

Aretz & Heise Immigration, an office of Denver immigration lawyers, is pleased to provide young immigrants with the most up to date information available regarding President Obama’s new deferred action program for youth!

Just today, August 3, 2012, Immigration held a nation-wide teleconference for immigration lawyers and advocates, providing new information on this program for DREAMers, and Aretz & Heise Immigration was there to capture all the details.

First, the basics.  On June 15, 2012, President Obama and the Department of Homeland Security announced a new program for certain young people who were brought into the U.S. as children, known as DREAMers.  Individuals who qualify for this program will receive what is known as “deferred action.”  Deferred action means that, for two years, the DREAMer will not be placed in removal proceedings, and will be eligible for employment authorization.  At the end of two years, the individual will need to reapply to remain in deferred action status.

One of the important things to understand about this program, now known as “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” or “DACA,” is that it is not a law.  It is a program.  DACA does not provide DREAMers with lawful permanent residency, citizenship, or a path to lawful permanent residency or citizenship.  It does, however, provide recipients of the program with relief from risk of deportation, as well as work authorization, as long as the person is eligible, and has been approved under the program.

In order to qualify for DACA, you must demonstrate that you:

1. Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
2. Came to the United States before reaching your 16thbirthday;
3. Resided in the U.S. continuously for the last five years, up to the present (except for     brief, casual trips abroad prior toAugust 15, 2012);
4. Are currently enrolled in school, have a high school diploma or GED, or are an honorably discharged veteran;
5. Have a clean criminal record (no felonies, serious misdemeanors, more than three  misdemeanors, or otherwise pose a threat to national security); and
6. Are not in lawful immigration status.

Now, the big news.  Starting August 15, 2012, USCIS will begin accepting applications for DACA. 

Aretz & Heise Immigration is prepared to help you every step of the way.  We are now offering consultations to determine your eligibility for DACA.  Starting next week, we will be able to give you a DACA Package so that you can get started!

We expect Immigration to be flooded with many applicants.  We highly recommend that you contact us right away if you believe you are eligible for DACA, so that we can give you a consultation and get you started in the process!  Call Denver immigration attorneys at Aretz & Heise Immigration TODAY to schedule your initial consultation at 303-495-2013.

The Dream Begins: Immigration is accepting Deferred Action requests


Aretz & Heise Immigration applauds Immigration’s on-time implementation of the promised Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, originally announced on June 15, 2012.   While not a permanent fix, the deferred action initiative gives new hope to young people who qualify to live free from fear of deportation.  The guidelines, which can be found on our website at are seemingly straightforward, although there are a number of potential issues that may arise in a person’s request.

“This is a tremendous initiative on the part of DHS and USCIS, and a tremendous opportunity for young people who were brought to the United States; for many the United States is the only country they know,” said AILA President Laura Lichter.

Lichter continues, “there are potentially over a million young people eager to take a first step forward into a promising future. The best thing they can do is to educate themselves so they don’t get scammed. While many will be successful in requesting deferred action, immigration law is extremely complex. No one considering applying should do so without first consulting with qualified counsel, whether one-on-one with a lawyer, or through one of the many community programs providing immigration services or pro bono programs in which AILA lawyers throughout the country are participating.”

It is important to note that although Immigration has begun accepting requests, as of August 15, 2012, there is no deadline for filing!   Therefore, it is highly recommended to first review your case legally with a reputable attorney before submitting your case to Immigration.  “Having the right advocate on your side is absolutely essential,” Lichter said.

We look forward to USCIS conducting these reviews promptly and efficiently, but as of now, Immigation advises that the process will likely take “several months.”

For more information about this program and to review your eligiblity with experienced and caring immigration attorneys, call  Aretz & Heise Immigration TODAY at 303-495-2013.

DHS Announces Application Process for Deferred Action, IPC Provides Data on Where Eligible Individuals Reside

August 3, 2012 

Washington D.C. – Today, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released important details about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) process, which will temporarily allow some eligible youth to go to school and work without fear of deportation. A recent Immigration Policy Center (IPC) report, Who and Where the DREAMers Are: A Demographic Profile of Immigrants Who Might Benefit from the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action Initiative, provides the most detailed look to date at who is likely to benefit from the new program and where they are located in the country.

The IPC estimates that roughly 936,930 undocumented youth between the ages of 15 and 30 might immediately qualify to apply for the new program. The new report breaks down the deferred action-eligible population by nationality and age at the national and state level, as well as by congressional district.

Because potential applicants reside in all states and every congressional district, today’s announcement clarifying the application process sets the stage for an intense period of preparation around the country, as communities wait for the request form to be released on August 15. The DACA program is designed for young people who are under the age of 31; entered the United States before age 16; have resided in the country for at least five years as of June 15, 2012; have not been convicted of a felony, a “significant” misdemeanor, or three other misdemeanors; and are currently in school, graduated from high school, earned a GED, or served in the military.

Among the key points shared by USCIS:

– A new form will be available on August 15. All DACA requests will require payment of the standard $85 biometric fee, but no additional fee will be charged. Persons who wish to receive work authorization must pay, with limited exemptions, the current employment authorization document fee of $365.

– Information provided on the form will be kept confidential, including information relating to applicants’ family members or legal guardians, meaning it will not be used for immigration enforcement proceedings, unless the applicant meets current USCIS criteria for referral to Immigration and Customs Enforcement or issuance of a Notice to Appear (NTA) in immigration court.

– DHS will deem “significant” any misdemeanor, regardless of the sentence imposed, involving burglary, domestic violence, sexual abuse or exploitation, unlawful possession of firearms, driving under the influence, or drug distribution or trafficking. In addition, DHS will deem significant any other misdemeanor for which an applicant was sentenced to more than 90 days in jail, not including suspended sentences and time held pursuant to immigration detention.  Minor traffic offenses and convictions for immigration-related offenses classified as felonies or misdemeanors by state laws (e.g. Arizona SB 1070) will not be considered.

Most of the potential beneficiaries of deferred action live in large immigrant-receiving states like California and Texas, but many also reside in North Carolina, Georgia, Colorado, and Washington State, and nearly every state has a significant DREAMer population. Also, while nearly 70 percent of potential beneficiaries are from Mexico, there are significant populations from Central America, South America, the Caribbean, and Asia. In some states, such as Virginia, the population is quite diverse, with no single dominant nationality.

Knowing who the potential beneficiaries are and where they live will be critical as USCIS initiates this new program. Using this data, USCIS, as well as advocates offering assistance, can locate pockets of potential beneficiaries who may be living in geographic areas that are underserved or who may require information in languages that were unanticipated.

To read the USCIS Guidance and IPC report see:

Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Process (USCIS Website)

Who and Where the DREAMers Are: A Demographic Profile of Immigrants Who Might Benefit from the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action Initiative (IPC Fact Check, July 2012)

For press inquiries contact, Wendy Sefsaf at  202-812-2499  or

The Immigration Policy Center (IPC), established in 2003, is the policy arm of the American Immigration Council. IPC’s mission is to shape a rational conversation on immigration and immigrant integration. Through its research and analysis, IPC provides policymakers, the media, and the general public with accurate information about the role of immigrants and immigration policy on U.S. society. IPC reports and materials are widely disseminated and relied upon by press and policy makers. IPC staff regularly serves as experts to leaders on Capitol Hill, opinion-makers and the media. IPC is a non-partisan organization that neither supports nor opposes any political party or candidate for office.

 Division of the American Immigration Council.    

President Obama Speaks on Department of Homeland Security Immigration Announcement

President Obama announces a new Department of Homeland Security policy that will allow certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children, do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria to be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings. June 15, 2012.


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