Deferred action for illegal immigrants stymied by fear

Publicado el 10 de octubre de 2012
por Marjorie Cortez en Desert News

SALT LAKE CITY — Fear of immigration officials is keeping young illegal immigrants away from the federal government`s deferred action program, with only 745 people applying in Utah during the first month of the program.

Salt Lake City immigration attorney Tim Wheelwright told fellow members of the Utah Commission on Immigration and Migration on Wednesday that the response to the program, which would temporarily hold off their removal or deportation and allow illegal immigrants to work if they meet certain criteria, is “tepid.”

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services started accepting applications for deferred action Aug. 15.

Wheelwright said some young people remain afraid of revealing their presence to federal immigration authorities. They fear the program could be rescinded because it was not created in federal statute. The program was created under the Department of Homeland Security.

Others worry, despite assurances of confidentiality from the agency, that the information will be used to deport undocumented family members.

As an attorney, Wheelwright said his immediate reaction to the program was to dissuade clients from applying because “it`s too temporary.”

Wheelwright has also had to tell many clients in recent years that his hands were tied in assisting them with immigration matters due to stalled immigration reforms in Congress. In that respect, he`s had a change of heart because deferred action “has the potential to help a very narrow group of people.”

Roman Gonzalez, a 2012 graduate of Copper Hills High School who has applied for deferred action, said he believes the potential benefits of the program outweigh any concerns.

Gonzalez said he plans to enroll in Salt Lake Community College in January. He`s currently working odd jobs to save for college.

“You just have to take a chance,” Gonzalez said Wednesday. “It would be better in the future for you and your kids if you get a career and you`re better able to support your family.”

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, who supports the deferred action approach absent meaningful immigration reform, said applications are lower than he had anticipated.

“I think there`s a lot of uncertainty,” Shurtleff said. “I think people want to see who will be the president, whether they want to apply.”

Earlier this month, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he would not rescind the program.

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