By Rebecca Henely
Since the federal government began its deferred action policy for young undocumented immigrants last week, Jackson Heights-based Make the Road New York said Tuesday it has helped 1,000 submit applications to remain in the United States for at least two years.
The immigration advocacy group helped its members and other young people take advantage of the new policy right when it began. On Aug. 15, they joined with elected officials and accompanied their young members to the U.S. immigration office in Long Island City last week for the start of President Barack Obama’s deferred action policy.
“Finally I see my dreams coming true,” said 20-year-old Yenny Yanaylle, a Jackson Heights resident who applied.
Obama announced through a memo June 15 that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security should not begin or continue the deportation process for certain young undocumented immigrants. This deferred action policy is available to immigrants who came to the United States under the age of 16, are younger than 30 and were in the United States June 15; have lived for the country for the last five years; have a clean criminal record; and are either in school, have graduated from high school, have a general education development certificate or have an honorable discharge from the military.
Immigrants who qualify will have to renew after two years.
The policy went into effect Aug. 15, and about 20 to 30 people came out to the Long Island City office, at 27-35 Jackson Ave., to either apply for deferred action or support those who did. Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, said her organization has been working for comprehensive immigration reform for years. She credited the policy to the recent willingness of young undocumented immigrants to come forward throughout the past decade and tell their stories.
“Young people who are undocumented will be able to walk down the streets without fear,” Archila said.
Natalia Aristizabal, the arts and media educator at Make the Road, said through its workshops the organization is helping 1,000 young people submit applications.
But even while the activists celebrated the memo going into effect, they insisted it was only the first step. Before the news conference, the group chanted, “What do we want, do we really really want? The DREAM Act! The DREAM Act!”
The act, which stands for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, would provide permanent residency for undocumented immigrants under similar conditions to the deferred action policy. The activists at the Long Island City office called on Congress to pass the act and implement comprehensive immigration reform.
“This is not everything for us,” said Katherine Tabares, a Corona student who is not able to apply for deferred action because she came to the United States two years ago. “We need to keep on working.”
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said while this will help students stay in the country, more needs to be done so their parents, grandparents and cousins can also have the opportunity to pursue the American Dream.
“The people you see behind me are the heart and soul of my district,” Van Bramer said, “of Queens and the city of New York.”
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.