How DREAMers Made the Deferred-Action Program a Reality


"If you compare the 2012 electorate to 2008 or '04, people are much more accepting of undocumented immigrants now," said Koelsch. "It's really kind of a sea change. And it goes across states. It's been kind of a slow education process -- people are finally catching on that undocumented immigrants are not these evil people, and there has to be a pragmatic solution."

While Romney has said he will respect the reprieves granted under Obama, he has vowed not to continue the deferred action program, saying he will advocate a more "permanent" solution instead.

But Romney has not specified exactly what that would look like, leaving many undocumented immigrants with a sense of general unease about placing themselves on what amounts to a government list of people in the country illegally.

The future of immigration reform is still uncertain, even should Obama be reelected.

The president vowed "to have in the first year an immigration bill that I strongly support and that I'm promoting," but that never materialized, a fact Univision news anchor Jorge Ramos pointed out to Obama during a Univision "Meet the Candidate" event in Miami last month.

While Obama has said he plans to focus on the topic, and voiced his support for a pathway to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants, any timeline and specifics are still unclear.

'I Have to Take the Chance.'

For now, DREAMERS will hold on to what they've been given. Koelsch has seen some approvals for students he's helped apply to DACA start to trickle in. While a few were returned as incomplete -- some were missing a recent address, for example -- Koelsch says those applicants will be allowed to re-submit their paperwork, and he has not heard of anybody that's actually been denied.

Carlos Amador, another member of the DREAM Team Los Angeles, came to the United States from Mexico in 1999. He was granted permanent residency last year, and has devoted countless hours to helping other young undocumented immigrants in the Los Angeles area. During two mass application drives, Amador said, about 3,500 youth and their families turned up for help understanding and applying for deferred action. "We've been bombarded with questions and requests," Amador said. "It's been busy times for a couple of months now."

While he doesn't know exactly how many people he's helped apply or how many have had their applications approved, Amador has heard from some who have already had their biometric appointments scheduled. The Department of Homeland Security had indicated the process could take up to six months, but many applicants have been pleasantly surprised by the process.

Although the foray into the public eye -- the process has been closely watched by media and politicians on both sides of the aisle -- has proved a new experience for many.

"There's a combination of fear and excitement," Amador said, adding that many youth have spent their lives trying to fly under the radar. "This is the first time many have shared their undocumented status."

Amador said he and other helpers are not advising people to apply for deferred action unless they are confident the applicants fit the requirements. Even so, they will hold out hope that Nov. 6 does not change this.

"We're willing to fight, though," Amador said, adding that he thinks the program will continue as long as youth continue to put pressure on government leaders.

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