Tag Archives: DACA

What To Do When Your DACA Renewal Is Delayed

DACA delay

First, lets try to make sure your renewal is not delayed. Apply at least 6 months in advance and use the mailer that you received with your last work permit for the renewal for a more speedy turn-around.

However, if you do everything right, and your renewal is still delayed, here is what you can do:

1. Check your case status online at USCIS – You will need to enter the receipt number for either your DACA application or your employment authorization application.

2. Initiate a service request at USCIS – Call USCIS National Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 and request to use the Service Request Management Tool (SRMT) to request expedited processing of your case and ask for an interim EAD, if your DACA renewal application was filed 120 days in advance. In most cases, you have to ask to speak to a supervisor. In any case, write down any number they provide you.

Be prepared to provide your name, alien number, and receipt numbers to the customer service center. In some limited cases, applicants who have had their initial DACA denied, can also use this tool as an appeal to inform USCIS that the denial based on an administrative error.

3. Elevate your case status: After making the initial service request, contact the USCIS Headquarters Office of Service Center Operations by email at: SCOPSSCATA@dhs.gov. You should receive a response within 10 days.

4. Seek assistance from the USCIS Ombudsman – Open a case assistance request with the USCIS Ombudsman by filing DHS-7001. Make sure to state any reason why you need your DACA to be renewed ASAP such as employment opportunity or travel abroad or financial detriment.

Once you have completed and submitted the online form, you should be issued an Ombudsman-specific case number. Then you can contact, by email, one of these Ombudsman staff people, and request them to look into your case:

Rena.cutlip-mason@hq.dhs.gov

Margaret.gleason@hq.dhs.gov

Messay.berhanu@hq.dhs.gov

5. Contact your Congressional Representative: If the matter continues to be unresolved and there is a lapse in your work authorization, contact your individual Congressional representative for assistance. You can find your representative here.

6. Contact the Service Center that is processing your case:

  • California Service Center: csc-ncsc-followup@dhs.gov
  • Vermont Service Center: vsc.ncscfollowup@dhs.gov
  • Nebraska Service Center: NSCFollowup.NCSC@uscis.dhs.gov
  • Texas Service Center: tsc.ncscfollowup@dhs.gov

If you do not receive a response within 21 days of emailing the service center, you may email the USCIS Headquarters Office of Service Center Operations at SCOPSSCATA@dhs.gov

I see delayed renewals quite a bit these days so while I am not certain that the steps above will work in all cases, it is worth a try and better than waiting around for a response.

As a final note, applicants renewing their DACA should make sure to file 180-150 days before the expiry date listed on their Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Applicants who anticipate traveling abroad while their DACA renewal is due should always file earlier than the 150 mark. Filing less than 120 days in advance may lead to delays in lapses of work authorization, and accruing of unlawful presence.

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Lessons from Traveling Abroad

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You just received a green card, or advance parole, and want to travel internationally?

First of all, congratulations are in order!

If this is your first time traveling abroad in a while, here are some things you should do or bring before your trip.

SAFETY PRECAUTIONS

1. Obtain a money belt that straps to your body to store your cash, passport and valuables.

2. Carry travel insurance if your regular health insurance doesn’t cover you while abroad. Travel insurance is also useful if your baggage is lost or delayed, and provides reimbursement on prepaid reservations if your trip is canceled, interrupted or delayed.

3. Make a copy of your passport, and leave it in the safety of your attorney or a friend.

4. Register with your country’s embassy. If there is a problem in the country while you are traveling abroad, this would make it easier for the embassy to contact you, and get you out of harm’s way.

5. Do not forget to renew your prescriptions, and take some over the counter medications with you. For example, I do not travel abroad without my allergy medication, regular pain killers, and antibiotics.

FINANCIAL

6. Call your bank provider and place travel alerts on your credit and debit cards. You do not want the bank to think there is fraud on your account while you are traveling abroad, and then lock your account as a precautionary measure.

7. Carry several types of currency: local cash, traveller’s cheques, some U.S. dollars to convert if you spot a deal, credit cards that have no foreign transaction fees abroad, debit cards to withdraw money from an ATM without fees or have the fees reimbursed such as Charles Schwab. Also, you can get cash advance from your Discover Card while traveling.

8. Check the country’s entrance/exit fees. Some countries require travelers to pay in order to enter or leave the country. These fees are not included in the price of your airline ticket, and can range from $25 to $200.

9. Buy some local currency before you head out: You can also ask your local U.S. bank for some foreign currency, but note that they do not usually give you the best conversion rates. Research the best conversion rate for the country you are visiting, and convert your currency there.

COMMUNICATION

10. Get a phone or data plan that works internationally. You do not want to be stuck with those hefty AT&T or Verizon bills. If you want to be incommunicado, look into shutting off your data roaming, and use Viber abroad in case you do need to reach your family or your attorney.

11. Do not forget a power strip and plug adapter. You will need these while traveling, and in many countries, your electronics would need an international friendly adapter to work.

16. Use an app such as Tripit to organize your travel. I travel frequently and Tripit is my to-go app for storing my flight information, and itinerary. It also helps your friends and family figure out where you are on any given day (if you invite them to view your travel plans).

TRAVEL DOCUMENTS

12. If you plan to travel a lot, you may want to invest in Global Entry to avoid long lines at airports and have TSA precheck privilege. Better yet, some credit cards provide a reimbursement for this fee, so you may want to look into this.

13. Visiting a foreign country may be as easy as going to Canada and flashing your green card. But some countries, such as Australia, may require you to obtain a visa, even though you have a green card or advance parole. Check the visa requirements of the countries you plan to visit ahead of time, so you can get all your ducks in a row.

14. Layovers: Layovers offer a great way to see several countries on one trip, but need to be planned accordingly. If you have long layovers in countries other than your final destination, you should find out whether you can get a transit pass or require a visa to explore those countries.

The materials available at this web site are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this Web site or any of the e-mail links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between Prerna Lal, and the user.

 

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Executive Action on Immigration: Good, Bad, and Ugly

I went to bed last night mentally doing a checklist of everyone I know who qualifies and does not qualify under the President’s immigration action. As a community advocate and formerly undocumented immigrant, the word that most aptly describes last night is “bitter-sweet.”

While the announcement is not enough, we do need to celebrate our victories, and what change this temporary reprieve will bring to so many members of the community. However, I am also frankly terrified for those that it would not help, and what would happen in the absence of permanent changes.

I am making a quick reference checklist here for myself, family members and friends, similar to the one I made for the Senate immigration bill two years ago as a community advocate. These are simply my initial mental impressions of the various memos released by the DHS yesterday and available here. They are in no particular order:

Good

  1. Expansion of DACA – The DHS will remove the upper level age cap on DACA so people who were above the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012 will not miss out. The date of entry was moved to January 1, 2010 from June 15, 2007, which means thousands more people who are newer arrivals would benefit. DACA will also be made into a temporary reprieve of 3 years, and the changes rolled out in 3 months.
  2. The New DAPA program – The DHS is tasked with creating a separate deferred action program for parents of U.S. citizen sons/daughters or LPR sons/daughters born before November 21, 2014. Parents must have resided in the U.S. since at least January 1, 2010, physically present in the U.S. on the day of announcement and have no lawful status, passed background checks, and are otherwise not ineligible (i.e. not an enforcement priority according to the new Johnson memo).
  3. The provisional stateside waiver (I-601A) will be extended to all family members eligible, which will now include adult sons and daughters, and spouses of LPRs. The provisional waiver is for the 3/10 year bar for unlawful entry, and requires an individual to prove “extreme hardship” to their U.S. citizen family member if they are deported. Usually, individuals who are trying to adjust their status in the U.S. but entered the country unlawfully, need to travel abroad to their home country for approval of a waiver. In 2012, the Administration started accepting “extreme hardship” waivers without requiring immediate relatives of U.S. citizens to leave and wait outside. Now this benefit is also available to the children and spouses of lawful permanent residents. This provision will require rule-making, so it will take some time to roll this out. The DHS will also engage in rule-making to expand the “extreme hardship” definition.
  4. Naturalization – Lawful permanent residents who are naturalizing can now pay via credit card and may qualify for fee waivers.
  5. Expansion of parole-in-place to immediate relatives of those U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who “seek to enlist” in the US Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, National Guard, or the Reserve of any of the five Armed Services). This benefit means that not only would the family members of those who seek to enlist not be subject deported–they may also be eligible to adjust their status in the future.
  6. Clarification of travel on advance parole by DHS so that people on DAP, DACA can travel abroad, and return to adjust their status in the U.S.
  7. Department of Labor (DOL) reforms: DOL will start issuing U visa certifications in three key areas: extortion, forced labor, and fraud in foreign labor contracting, and certify applications for trafficking victims seeking T visas. According to DOL, “These efforts will significantly help qualifying victims of these crimes receive immigration relief from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and access the range of victim services that they need to recover and rebuild their lives.”
  8. Reforms to the employment-based immigration system such as extension of OPT for STEM graduates, defining “specialized knowledge” for L-1B intracompany transferees, increasing H-1B portability by having USCIS define “same or similar” jobs, expanding the use of the “national interest waiver” and starting a new parole program to bring talented entrepreneurs to the U.S.

Bad

  1. Elimination of Secure Communities with a new program that targets immigrant communities: DHS is replacing the current “Secure Communities”  program with a new “Priority Enforcement Program” to remove individuals convicted of criminal offenses. While it could be a marked improvement that moves us from a pre-conviction to post-conviction model and uses notification instead of detainers, unfortunately, this continues the entanglement of local law enforcement with immigration enforcement.
  2. Exclusions for parents of DACA recipients, undocumented workers and farm workers without families, and LGBT individuals less likely to have family members in the U.S. – While these exclusions are not categorical, and some parents of DACA recipients who also have U.S. citizen/LPR children would continue to benefit, the President’s immigration action does not specifically benefit those who do not have immediate family ties to the U.S. but are nonetheless, members of our community. It is also unclear at this point whether parents with final orders or re-entries after deportation would be eligible for the program. At this point it appears that they would be eligible since they are not priorities under the new memo.
  3. Visa backlogs – The announcement punts on the question of family visa backlogs that affect so many of us. However, there will be Presidential Memorandum to create an interagency group to look at “visa modernization” which has 120 days to prepare recommendations for further action.
  4. Limited expansion of DACA:  It is great to see an expansion of DACA and elimination of the age-cap. It would have been nice to see public benefits such as ACA (healthcare) given to DACA recipients, as well as increasing the age of entry to 18 from 16 years.
  5. Employment-based immigration: DHS expects to finalize regulation on H4 visa holders soon but the rule will not be expanded to all H4 visa holders
  6. New enforcement priorities that continue to target immigrant communities: The President is rescinding past memos such as the Morton Memo, and issuing a new one, effective January 5, 2015. The new priorities are troubling and continue to criminalize immigrant and border communities, pitting good immigrants against bad immigrants, and separating families. I have listed the priorities below, and some initial thoughts on each:

Priority 1: Non-citizens convicted of aggravated felonies, suspected terrorists, convicted gang members, people apprehended at the border while unlawfully entering the U.S., will be a priority for removal unless they qualify for asylum or another immigration benefit.

Most troubling here is the use of language such as “suspected terrorists” without built in civil rights protections that discourage racial profiling. Additionally, people apprehended at the border will now be a top priority, even though many are coming to reunite with family. The prioritization of people with gang-related membership (without conviction) is very troubling, as law enforcement targets specific racial/ethnic groups as gang-affiliated.  

Priority 2: Non-citizens convicted of three or more misdemeanor offenses, non-citizens convicted of significant misdemeanors (including DUI), non-citizens apprehended who entered after January 1, 2014; non-citizens who are perceived to abuse the visa waiver program should be a priority of removal unless they qualify for asylum or another immigration benefit.

Significant misdemeanors – a new legal fiction created by DACA – is here to stay, even though it has no legal foundation. The prioritization of people with a DUI, and their exclusion from DACA, is incredibly troubling, as is the prioritization of people who overstay their visas under the visa waiver program. Many of these people are immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and have much to contribute to the U.S.

Priority 3: Non-citizens issued final orders of removal after January 1, 2014 should generally be a priority for removal unless they qualify for asylum, or another immigration benefit.

Immigrants who dared to come to the U.S. in 2014 will now be subject to draconian enforcement. 

Ugly

  1. Increased border enforcement – DHS plans to fund an additional 20,000 CBP agents, and continue to trend towards further border militarization of the Southern border we share with Mexico.
  2. Ramped up interior enforcement through existing programs such as the Criminal Alien Removal (CARI) Program, which profiles Latinos for detention and deportation, and  ICE raids, which will continue under these new announcements, despite right-wing talking points.
  3. Due process concerns: Expedited deportations and Operation Streamline will continue.
  4. No reforms to the existing detention system: Family detention will continue as the DHS opens a brand new center in Dilley, Texas, and arriving asylum seekers at the border will continue to be detained.

Finally, I just want to say that this is a deeply personal issue for me. I want to send some love and light to everyone who has worked hard for this announcement and emotionally drained from yesterday, and left out or have family members who are left out. I had a cab-driver yesterday, who unexpectedly started telling me about his son, and trying to figure out how to bring him here, just as I was getting out of the cab. I wish I had the time and opportunity to help him, and I hope he reunites with his son soon. We all deserve justice; we all deserve to be able to reunite with our families; and we most certainly deserve to be able to go home to safety–wherever that is.

If anyone has further thoughts, questions and concerns, feel free to comment or contact me.

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Executive Action On Immigration – Who You Should Thank Before the Party Gets Out of Control

Credit: NDLON

Photo Credit: NDLON

For more than a year now, I have worked with the grassroots movement trying to secure broad administrative relief from President Obama on immigration. I co-authored the Not1More Blue Ribbon Commission Recommendations to the President in the Spring. Just a few months ago, we were quite unpopular amongst advocates in the Beltway, who were asking the President to delay issuing administrative relief on immigration, but since the midterm elections, we are all the rage, and invited to cocktail parties everywhere. The Democrats may have lost the Senate due to the delay, but now that the President has signaled his desire to take executive action on immigration, the Democratic base seems fired up and ready for change.

It is certainly a pivot in the right direction. My experience as an undocumented immigrant has prepared me well for this moment since something similar happened when we won Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). “Dreamers”—the beneficiaries of DACA—became the “cool kids” that everyone tried to hang with, while we tried hard to grapple with how it divided our community into deserving and undeserving immigrants. My experience as an LGBT individual is also quite similar. Straight people, for lack of a better term, want to celebrate with us at our parties now, and act like they are cool with us, which makes for rather awkward conversations. I have learned to take people at face value, revel in my accomplishments, and forget about them the moment the happy hour is over. Because we have much more important work to do.

Nothing has been announced yet, so if you are confused about all the noise on executive action, you need to consult the chart here. The delay is cause for protests, not parties as the President continues to deport more people than ever before. Moreover, family detentions continue, as the Obama Administration builds a brand new facility in Dilley, Texas to imprison mothers and children escaping persecution in their home countries.

If any announcement does come, remember to thank NDLON’s Not One More Deportation movement. Without NotOneMore, we would have a dead immigration bill with no momentum for change and frankly, no prospects for executive action. Remember to thank the undocumented workers, parents, and youth who stopped buses, infiltrated detention centers, put their bodies on the line to ask for this change, and endured many attacks from pro-reform advocates. Unlike what Julia Preston writes in the New York Times, it is not big money which has brought us here, but big, courageous hearts of those who have been directly impacted by our devastating immigration laws. This is an undeniable fact, and perhaps it would not make it into the history books, but you had better not forget it.

It’s also important to remember that whatever the President announces will mean thousands left out and left to fend for themselves. Many of them are among the ones who organized for this change in the first place. They are our friends, loved ones, and members of our community. We have to help those who qualify but we must also fill the gap for those who did not make it, and work to ensure that they are represented as well.

Those who opposed administrative action at any time should start redeeming themselves by doing applications for relief at no cost to applicants, and contribute some application fees while they are at it. But don’t hold your breath. You’ll notice that they are the first ones taking credit and trying to make money from this.

Got legal questions for me or need help? Hit me up here.

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Last Chance to Complete DACA Survey, (Open Even To Those Who Have Not Applied)

If you qualify, or know someone else who does, please take part in this historic study of undocumented young people by completing this survey.

To qualify for the survey, you must:

1) Currently live in the United States, but have been born in another country;
2) Are between the ages of 18-32;
3) Are not a U.S. citizen;
4) Are not a legal permanent resident;
5) Arrived in the U.S. before age 16 and;
6) Have not left the United States in the last 5 years

Please note that you can take the survey even if you have not applied for DACA, or are not eligible due to other factors. Harvard professor, Roberto Gonzales, who launched the survey, tells me:

We’re hoping for a final surge from around the country, and are hoping to boost numbers in Georgia, Florida, Arizona and Texas. We want people to know that you don’t have to be a high achiever to take the survey, and the survey is also open to those who haven’t applied for DACA but are eligible.

The National UnDACAmented Research Project is a national study that seek to understand the effects of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on the everyday lives of young people receiving (or wishing to receive) its benefits. This is the first and only national survey of its kind on the undocumented youth population. The purpose of the project is to understand the effects of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) on the everyday lives of young people who have applied for, or are planning to apply for, DACA.

It is critically important that people participate in large numbers to give a more accurate picture of our community, and to ascertain what sort of services our community still needs in a post-DACA world.

The survey closes on Tuesday  at 11:59 pm, so this is your last chance to take it. It takes only 15 minutes to complete.

Update: Earlier version of this post stated that participants were getting $20 gift cards. The project has actually run out of these. But it is still advisable to take the survey, because it helps out our community.

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Mayorkas v. Cuellar De Osorio: From the Frontlines of the Supreme Court

Prerna Lal at the Supreme Court for Mayorkas v. Cuellar de Osorio, CSPA

Admission ticket to the U.S. Supreme Court

A major storm was supposed to take over the District of Columbia today. While the federal and District government closed down in anticipation of bad weather, I trudged along to the U.S. Supreme Court to hear oral arguments in Mayorkas v. de Osorio, an issue that has defined most of my existence in the United States.

Due to the storm, I was able to obtain really good cushy seats near the front of the courtroom, under the nose of nine Supreme Court Justices, whose one decision on this matter can change thousands of lives, including those of many so-called Dreamers currently living in the United States.

The issue is rather simple, though it appears convoluted. Due to immigration backlogs, people intending to immigrate to the United States through their parents or siblings currently spend many years waiting in line for a visa after their petitions are approved. However, by the time they can get a visa through the approved petitions, the intending immigrants are forced to leave their children behind or see their children face removal proceedings because their young sons and daughters are now over the age of 21. This is often referred to as “aging out” of the process. At the heart of Mayorkas v. de Osorio is whether the children who “age-out” can retain their original place in line and immigrate with their parents, rather than facing lengthy separation or worse, detention and deportation.  

In 2001, the Congress passed a law called the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA), which speaks directly to the matter. Section 203(h)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended by the CSPA, states:

If the age of an alien is determined … to be 21 years of age or older … the alien’s petition shall automatically be converted to the appropriate category and the alien shall retain the original priority date issued upon receipt of the original petition.

That sounds clear and unambiguous enough. The plain meaning of the text is that all derivative beneficiaries or minor children who happen to age out by the time they can obtain an immigrant visa, can use their earlier assigned date to retain their place in line. This prevents them from waiting in line for many years, sometimes decades, in order to reunite with their families.

However, since the passage of the law, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has construed this section of the CSPA very narrowly, and limited it to a particular class–only those children who were sponsored by their lawful permanent resident parents and turned 21 before they could complete the process are covered. This narrow limitation is not prescribed in any law or regulation besides a questionable BIA decision (Matter of Wang), and hence, has gutted a substantial benefit under the CSPA. Indeed, a bipartisan group of lawmakers wrote in an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court: “The Solicitor General’s continuing insistence that that the [law] is ambiguous raises serious institutional concerns…[Congress] does not typically give an agency carte blanche to rewrite statutory language that is clear.”

Separated from her adult children due to the agency’s narrow interpretation of the law, Respondent Cuellar de Osorio, a lawful permanent resident, filed a lawsuit to compel the agency to interpret the law as passed by Congress. The case was consolidated due to many similar cases, and certified as a nationwide class action by a California district court. Cuellar de Osorio and her class of litigants lost in District Court, but won at the Ninth Circuit. Their victory was also boosted by a win in the Fifth Circuit case, Khalid v. Holder. However, the Department of Justice appealed the Ninth Circuit decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which granted certiorari.

I decided to make it to the Supreme Court this morning because the issue has personally impacted my life for more than a decade. When my grandmother sponsored my mother for a green card, I was a child and expected to immigrate with my mother. However, by the time, my mother became eligible for a green card, I was over the age of 21. Instead of getting a green card with the rest of my family, I was placed in removal proceedings under the auspices of the Obama Administration. While I eventually married my U.S. citizen partner, many of my counterparts are still separated from their family members, with no hope of family reunification in the near future, except for winning retention of their original priority dates under the CSPA.

Elaine J. Goldenberg, Assistant to the Solicitor General, began the oral arguments, pleading for a deference to the government’s interpretation of Section 203(h)(3), and resorted to characterizing the aged-out children of lawful permanent residents as line-cutters. Justice Ginsburg interrupted her, suggesting that the impact on the aged-out child is much more severe, and that the aged-child has indeed, waited in line. Justice Breyer honed in on the fact that the government’s interpretation of the CSPA made the impact of the statute minuscule, and seemed to be against the spirit of the statute. Ms. Goldenberg continued to insist that the minor children who had aged out were cutting in line for a visa, and tried to paint the statute as ambiguous, and thus, asked the Supreme Court to defer to the agency’s narrow interpretation of the law.

Under the Chevron doctrine, a court is only supposed to defer to an agency’s interpretation of a law if the statute in question is ambiguous, and the agency interpretation of the ambiguous statute is reasonably construed. Litigating for the lawful permanent resident parents such as Cuellar de Osorio, Mark Fleming effectively countered the government, contending that there was no need to decide whether the government’s interpretation of the legislation was reasonable, because the statute in question was unambiguous. Besides, even if the Justices found the statute to be ambiguous, the agency’s narrow interpretation of the CSPA is incompatible with the ameliorative aspect of the statute, which is family reunification. After all, one of the principles of statutory construction is that a remedial statute such as the CSPA, should be applied liberally. Fleming also described to the Justices how “automatic” conversion under Section 203(h)(3) could happen in two ways. First, the derivative beneficiary can be granted a green card at the same time as the parent. Second, the lawful permanent resident parent can file a petition for the derivative beneficiary and request retention of the older priority date.

The entire transcript for the oral argument is available here. I think Mr. Fleming won this one.

However, predicting how the Justices may vote is an exercise in futility. We just have to wait and see. In my opinion, Justice Breyer, Justice Ginsburg, Justice Alito, and Justice Sotomayor seemed to be on the side of the Respondents, with the rest of the Justices being toss-ups except for Justice Scalia, who seemed to be the only one fervently in favor of the government. However, most of the Justices appeared confused, which is probably the only thing going for the government right about now.

Still, if MotherJones can slice through the complex legal language and get the gist of the case–which is about putting a stop to family separation and deportation–I am sure that at least five Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court can do the same.

The storm did not last long. I walked out of the court with the sun shining down brightly at me. Lets hope for the same for all our families soon.

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Whither Immigration Reform?

NIYA Bring Them Home

The DREAM 9 after they were released on parole

Lets get this out of the way: Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR), with a pathway to citizenship, is dead for 2013.

Many of our friends working hard on Capitol Hill insist that immigration reform talks are moving forward despite the death of the House “Gang of 7” lawmakers who were supposedly working on a bill. I respect the undocumented youth who have been working with legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, to move the ball forward. It is not an easy task. I have been there and done that 2007-2010, watching the federal DREAM Act come up for a vote and fail to pass twice over. I have played the game with lawmakers, lobbied extensively on the issue, and organized to bring about legislative change. But the apparent failure of these efforts is also a testament to why we need people outside the institutions, such as The National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA) to kick things into gear, and inject energy and enthusiasm into the debate.

I just received word from the The National Immigrant Youth Alliance that that they are not waiting for comprehensive immigration reform. To be clear, that is not what NIYA is about in the first place. NIYA’s mission is to teach immigrant communities how to fight for themselves. After the brilliant DREAM 9 action, the NIYA will be doing another border surge this coming week, Bring Them Home 2, where they will bring back dozens of families previously deported. This is in response to the very real urgency that many of us feel in our communities: we cannot face the horrors of cartel violence and live torn apart from our homes and families for another second.

As for the institutions still working towards comprehensive immigration reform, I wonder how much of that is simply the immigration non-profit industrial complex talk to keep the issue alive and not concede that the comprehensive strategy has been a dismal failure for our communities. I also wonder whether the 1,100 people deported on a daily basis can afford to wait while politicians and self-appointed figureheads pander with their lives. I have heard from many friends within the immigration reform complex that the main goal of the continuous push for immigration reform is to punish the GOP at the polls, rather than to win relief for all our communities. I could care less for the political games, and contrary to that goal, there is a real sense of urgency in a lot of immigrant communities to bring about change. Many are now looking to the so-called nuclear option — President Obama, exercising his discretionary authority, to grant relief for the 11 million, and pursue other executive remedies.

Least we forget, President Obama was compelled to issue Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), after pressure from both inside and outside groups. While it has many shortcomings and served as a way to silence a lot of critics, the program has granted relief to close to 500,000 undocumented youth. There is no reason that the President cannot expand it to cover everyone. As even Republican Marco Rubio pointed out last month,  Obama could be “tempted” into legalizing the 11 million undocumented immigrants with the “sign of a pen” if congressional reform efforts keep stalling. Many organizations, such as the National Day Labor Organizing Network (NDLON) have insisted on this temporary fix as well.

When compared to the option of eventually passing an immigration bill complete with border militarization, criminalizing future undocumented populations, and no pathway to citizenship, as many groups are now willing to compromise behind closed doors, deferred action for all may be the better temporary solution. It will remove the threat of deportation for millions of families, and allow them to reside and work legally in the United States. As more families come out of the shadows, show their contributions to society, Congress would have to create a more permanent fix, as it did with NACARA in 1997, where certain Nicaraguans, Cubans, Salvadorans, Guatemalans, nationals of former Soviet bloc countries and their dependents were granted lawful permanent resident status after their cases burdened the asylum system. A little birdie tells me that the Bring Them Home project has similar goals.

Plan A is then, to stop the deportations and grant deferred action for all. It puts more pressure on House Republicans to do something, besides drag their feet in order to kill immigration reform. It stops Democrats from using the immigration issue as a way to pander to growing Latino demographics. Deferred action for all would also create energy and enthusiasm in immigrant communities across the country. And President Obama, currently known as the Deporter-in-Chief for record-breaking deportations, gets to rewrite history books about how he granted amnesty to the 11 million, and liberated the undocumented. He shouldn’t pass it up without a second thought. That would be a mistake.

The clock is running down.

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