Monday, June 18, 2012

Tutorial on the new policy of Deferred Action for "DREAM" eligible young people

Last week was an exciting week for our Church, Nation, and Immigrant communities. For those who missed some or all of what went down, here is a recap:

-Tuesday, June 12th: Over 150 prominent Evangelical leaders sign a Statement of Principals for Immigration Reform. Some key leaders of this statement presented it at a press conference in Washington DC with all major news media covering the story. Read More

-Thursday, June 14th: Time Magazine releases the cover of it's latest issue featuring 36 Undocumented Immigrants stating, "We are Americans, Just not legally." (On stands June 25th) Read More

-Friday, June 15th: President Obama announces a new memorandum, effective Immediately, offering deferred action and work authorization to young people meeting a list of specific qualifications. Read More

As I woke up Friday morning to countless texts, Facebook messages and emails regarding the news, I felt deep in my heart that God was saying, "I have not forgotten you" to all those struggling as Undocumented Immigrants in our country. I was filled with hope and also many, many questions as to how this would logistically play out. Many questions have yet to be answered and in an effort to keep people informed, here is a basic tutorial on what we know so far.

Important terms and definitions:
Deferred Action - basically a postponement and protection against deportation
Work Authorization - essentially, a piece of paper that allows you to work legally in this country
Removal Proceedings - The process of being deported
NTA - Notice to Appear, basically a demand to appear in front of an Immigration judge to determine your status in the country
USCIS - United States Citizenship and Immigration services, they process all requests for visas and Immigrant benefits
ICE - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, they enforce Immigration law

Qualification Criteria from USCIS:
1. Have come to the United States under the age of sixteen
2. Have continuously resided in the United States for at least five years preceding June 15, 2012 and are present in the United States on June 15, 2012
3. Currently be in shcool, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are honorably discharge veterans of the Coast Guard of Armed Forces of the United States
4. Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety
5. Not be above the age of thirty

What it isn't:
-Amnesty, a path to Legal Permanent Residency or Citizenship
-The Dream Act
-A change in the Law
-Comprehensive Immigration Reform
-An Executive Order

What it is:
-Protection for a vulnerable and important group within our country from deportation
-A way for many eligible and deserving youth to come out of the shadows, continue their education, and contribute to the economy more fully by allowing them to work legally without the threat of deportation
-Prosecutorial Discretion, basically changing the way the Law is enforced, which is within the authority of the President

What we know:
-This memo will be implemented within 60 days of when it was announced, so sometime around August 16th
-Those in removal proceedings or with a final order to be removed who qualify, should request deferred action with ICE immediately
-Those NOT in removal proceedings who believe they qualify SHOULD NOT turn themselves into ICE, but rather wait for USCIS to release the implementation plan and apply directly with them once the application process is available
-Those who believe they qualify should begin gathering documentation proving they meet the criteria listed above
-Applying for Deferred Action and Work Authorization will not trigger an Immigration investigation into the applicants relatives
-Those who apply and are denied will be given an NTA, but not necessarily be placed directly in removal proceedings

What we still don't know:
-How those who qualify will apply
-The intricacies of the exact meaning of each of the qualifications
-If those who receive this form of temporary relief will be able to travel outside of the country
-What will happen if President Obama is not re-elected next term

What you can do to help:
-Help spread facts and not rumors...check your facts before posting something on a blog, facebook, or twitter
-Volunteer at a local Legal Services organization, like World Relief or Catholic Charities. There will certainly be A LOT of need over the next few months and years in regards to this policy change. Solidarity will be helping in some capacity to process applications for our friends and neighbors that qualify. If you are interested in helping, email me at
-Learn more about the Bible and Immigration by joining one of Solidarity's 8 week learning communities. For more information, click here.
-Join with Evangelical leaders like Max Lucado, Shane Claiborn and Dave Gibbons, by signing the Evangelical Statement of Principles for Immigration Reform

My Response:
The general consensus is that this is HUGE. It is step in the right direction and will not only positively impact our nation, but will allow for thousands of hard working young people to come out of the shadows and have an opportunity to fully contribute to our country without living everyday in fear of being sent back to a country they may not know or remember. Is this a political move on Obama's part, given it's an election year? Probably, but aren't we used to all types of politicians doing what ever they can to get re-elected? I don't think we need to dwell on the supposed motivations of President Obama. Rather, I think we should praise our LORD that He is answering the cries of so many young people who have lived a life of oppression and struggle. I personally do not think it's an accident that this announcement came just 3 days after the Church came together in UNITY declaring our commitment to Immigration policies that reflect dignity and respect for all humankind. When do you have so many different denominations come together in agreement on anything?? It is unprecedented and can only be lead by the Holy Spirit. I think God is honoring that unity and answer to His call. I also think that this is only the beginning of God doing miraculous works in our nation in regards to Immigration policy.

Let us continue to seek God's heart for the oppressed and be diligent as we seek His calling for the Church to respond.