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placeholder  August 6, 2012   •   VOL. 50, NO. 13   •   Oakland, CA
Krsna Avila, center, legal services manager at the organization Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC), with two of his coworkers.

New hope for undocumented youth in US

Lourdes recalls with nostalgia her senior year, and her dream of being an engineer cut short when she discovered a secret her parents had kept from her about her past.

Lourdes, who agreed to be interviewed only if we did not use her full name, was not born in the United States. Her parents came from the small town of Mexicali, in Mexico. They brought her to Oakland when she was only a month old.

What is 'deferred action'?

• Does not confer a legal status that may lead to the residence or citizenship.

• Does not provide benefits to parents or other relatives.

Who is eligible?

• Those who entered the country before age 16 and have not reached age 31.

• Those who before June 15, 2012 had lived in the country for a minimum of five years.

• Those who are attending school, have graduated, earned a GED or were in the military.

• Those who have not been guilty of serious crimes.

• Financial records, medical records, school certificates and diplomas are some documents that can prove continuous presence in the country.

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When applying for government grants and loans to help pay for college, Lourdes had to prove she was a citizen. Though she had lived her entire life in the US, she didn't meet the citizenship requirement.

"I did not know what to do. It took several months to accept my situation and forgive my parents. They did what they thought was best for me, and I do not blame them," she says.

On June 15 President Obama said the US would stop the deportation of, or the beginning of deportation proceedings for some young people who were brought to America as children. The announcement gave Lourdes new hope "body and soul."

Krsna Avila, legal services manager at the organization Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC), whose mission is to help undocumented students, had an experience similar to that of Lourdes.

Avila was born in Guanajuato, Mexico, and came to the East Bay when he was 4 months old. Thanks to a petition by his parents, six months ago Avila managed to achieve legal status.

Since 2001, when the federal Dream Act was first introduced, he has become an advocate for students and believes that the new Obama decision will allow for thousands of undocumented youths who consider this their country to remain here legally.

Now, the government can grant a "deferred action," legal relief for between 15 and 30 years old and grant a work permit for two years which may be renewed, and a Social Security number.

"I cried when the announcement was made. They were tears of joy but also frustration that many of my friends, family and community members may not be covered," Avila said. It is estimated that about 100,000 young people in the Bay Area will benefit from the Obama change.

Those young people who are in deportation proceedings are covered by the change now. Remaining youths must wait until Aug. 15 to submit their requests, at which time the federal government should provide a process and instructions.

This is the key that will open doors that had been closed, Lourdes said.

This is a first step Avila said. It shows "our efforts can make changes to the policies of this country."

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