Despite Legal Challenge, Advocates Gear Up To Help More Apply For DACA

By Jude Joffe-Block
Published: Monday, February 9, 2015 - 12:25am
Updated: Monday, February 9, 2015 - 2:20pm
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Phoenix-based advocates are gearing up to help more immigrants apply for work permits and a reprieve from deportation under an expanded version of the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. These groups say they are not deterred by a lawsuit challenging the program.

On Feb. 18 the Obama administration will expand which immigrants in the country illegally can qualify for the DACA program it began in 2012. Individuals who can prove they came to the United States before the age of 16, are in high school or have a diploma or GED, and can pass a criminal background check are eligible. Unlike before, there will no longer be an age cap.

But the program is attracting controversy. The U.S. House of Representatives voted to defund DACA. Plus Texas and 25 other states, including Arizona, are suing over the president’s executive actions on immigration. A federal judge could decide any day now whether the program should be blocked.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich told Fox News last month that he opposes the president’s actions because they go well beyond “prosecutorial discretion.”

“What he has done is taking the extra step to grant legal status, to grant work permits, of making states give them licenses,” Brnovich said.

Despite the opposition in court and in one chamber of Congress, immigrant rights activists say they are starting registration drives and an appointment hotline to help immigrants the Phoenix-area to apply for deferred action.

“We are moving forward regardless of the ruling and regardless of anti-immigrant legislation,” said Raquel Teran of Mi Familia Vota. Her organization is part of a coalition launching on Feb. 10 to help register those who qualify for DACA.

“We are getting ready for the deferred action programs that will give millions of people the chance to live and work and stay in America with their families,” Teran said.

The coalition has scheduled a public forum on Saturday, Feb. 21 at 10 a.m. at Carl Hayden High School.

A separate Obama administration program that will allow immigrant parents of U.S. citizen children to get work permits is expected to begin accepting applications in May.

About half of all immigrants living in Maricopa County without legal status — or about 94,000 people — are expected to qualify from one of the president’s executive actions, according to an estimate by the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. 

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