Caribs urged to avoid deportation

Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke is urging eligible Caribbean national to apply for reprieve from deportation.

Last week, the United States began accepting applications from young illegal Caribbean and other immigrants for temporary reprieve from deportation, and New York State officials said they are providing US$450,000 in grants to groups that can help assist them.

In June, President Barack Obama announced the initiative, which grants two-year deportation deferrals and work permits to illegal Caribbean and other immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

With officials from federal, state, and local government, Clarke told a public forum in Brooklyn, on Monday, dubbed “From DREAM Act to Deferred Action,” about the new immigration policy that will allow eligible youth to obtain employment authorization and deferred action – which provides relief from removal or removal proceedings.

“I encourage anyone who is DREAM Act eligible to apply for this program that will give so many young people an opportunity to participate in our civil society,” said Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, who represents the 11th Congressional District in Brooklyn.

“I hope employment authorization will be one of the many other benefits that will be granted across the nation” she added.

Clarke warned individuals who intend to apply for deferred action to be “wary of scams and lawyers who may charge exorbitant fees to provide legal assistance.”

On Sept. 7, Clarke said she will host an appointment-only legal clinic in conjunction with the New York Immigration Coalition and several other nonprofit organizations.

“It is critical that we get information out to our immigrant communities so that people will know who is eligible for deferred action and so that they can avoid being scammed,” said New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Silver said State grants will support clinics, workshops and legal services across the state, where an estimated 80,000 immigrants between the ages of 15 and 30 could currently benefit.

The Assembly Speaker disclosed that the grants also went to Legal Services NYC and to a new state task force run by the New York Immigration Coalition and the New York State Immigrant Action Fund.

Officials at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency in charge of the initiative, said eligible young illegal immigrants can obtain valid Social Security numbers, and apply for driver’s licenses, professional certificates and financial aid for college.

The Washington-based Migration Institute, a nonpartisan research group, said about 1.2 million immigrants are eligible to apply now for the program.

It said another 500,000 children will be able to apply when they reach the minimum eligibility age of 15 in coming years.

U.S. officials said to be eligible for the reprieve, illegal immigrants must have been in the country and under age 31 on Jun. 15.

They must also have come to the U.S. before they were 16 years of age and have resided in the country continuously for at least five years.

In addition, officials said the illegal immigrants must be in school, or have graduated from high school or honorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces.

Officials said immigrants convicted of a felony, a serious misdemeanor (including a sexual abuse or drug violation), or three less serious misdemeanors will be rejected.

Anyone deemed to pose a threat to U.S. national security will also not be granted the reprieve, they said.

Officials said immigrants will not be allowed to appeal if their application is rejected, but they may re-apply and pay the US$465 fee again.