Undocumented Youth Respond to Obama's Temporary Work Permit Program (Video, Comic, Audio, Articles)

Writing, video, comic, and audio diaries from a generation of Bay Area youth and organizers from San Jose, Oakland, and San Francisco sharing the layered thoughts and emotions surrounding the new temporary work permit program.


Deferred Action Is A Fit for My Brother, But Not Me

By Juan Gabriel

Obama announced the deferred action plan and my phone blew up with text messages and calls from friends and family telling me the "good news." I was excited at the moment, since my entire family has been waiting for some sort of momentum in our legal status. My brother and I are currently undocumented, and deciding on whether we apply for the program or not depends on which of us you ask.

Just last month, my brother graduated from the animation illustration program at San Jose State. But after he graduated, because of employment limitations due to immigration status, he just went back to his job as a bagger. I’m currently still a college student. After reading more into the policy we realized that it makes sense for him to go through what ever process there is, but I on the other hand am not applying for it.

At my brother’s graduation dinner I saw the pain in his eyes when his friends would ask him what animation studio offered him a job, or what video game company he is trying to work with. To see him say "no one has picked me up" was heart breaking. He actually did have a number of employers interested in him, but he felt he could not apply given his status.

My brother got engaged with his girlfriend after 11 years of being together, she is a U.S citizen, and through her he is applying for residency. So we see it as doubling up of his "luck" by also applying for the deferred action policy – an extra layer of temporary protection. I, atleast for now, don't have a route to residency, and not knowing what’s going to happen after your two years are up – as the policy states -- is not a chance I’m willing to take. I make that decision also in the backdrop of a recent wave of anti-immigrant laws happening in the U.S. That the Supreme Court last week decided that in Arizona that it is ok for local law enforcement to ask for papers, just makes my point.

My parents stance is to apply for it no matter what limitations or concerns we have have. They told us about the last amnesty that happened, and how many got left out because they didn't apply for fear that it was a trap to get deported. The process to get citizenship through marriage is lengthy and complicated, so who knows, Obama's deferred action plan may be quicker for my brother if it ends up being a stepping stone for residency down the road. At the end all my brother wants to do is utilize the schooling he got, and I am fine with with letting this "opportunity" pass me as long as it benefits my brother.

(Upon request of the author, his name has been changed to protect his identity.)


For Us DREAMers, These “Bread Crumbs” Should Push Us Even Harder for Real Reform
By Luis Romero

I can still remember vividly the morning of June 15th, when I was awakened by a text that I never would have thought to receive. It was approximately 7:25am on that Friday when I read a text that said, “BREAKING: White House grants relief from deportation to DREAMers...” I read it quickly and put my phone down and proceeded to process the information in my head as I slowly and gently lay my head back down on my pillow. It did not take much longer for me to hear my oldest brother open his room door only to head to the kitchen and describe the news he himself received to my parents. To which he quickly proceeded to my room only to find me lifting my phone and saying, “I got the text.” My brother did not waste a second as he walked over and gave me a hug and said, “brother you made it.”

It was a feeling of surprise and disbelief, and at the time little was being said besides the criteria that Obama's deferred action policy would require. As I walked over to the kitchen for details of the news, I quickly noticed the expression of happiness of my parents as I walked over to the TV. My parents did not waste much time as they walked over to hug me and tell me, “hijo ya la hicistes…son, you made it, all we have endured in this country as undocumented immigrants has been for a better future for you and your brothers, and now you have a chance to prove all you have learned through your struggles!”

It is hard to describe what I felt at the time as many thoughts raced through my mind. I felt happy and yet saddened that the reality of this meant that many of the veterans in the struggle to fight for the DREAM Act would be shut out of an opportunity to receive a work permit, and to be relieved from deportation – due to the age limitation. My focus shifted on the face of my dad as he put his hand on my shoulder and proceeded to weep, and as he looked up at me he said, “mijo, don’t ever give up, this is what your mother and I have prayed for, and I am sure this opportunity will lead to something positive in the near future.”

My oldest brother, of 34 years of age, was excited about the news and yet I could still see a hint of sadness in his eyes as one criteria alone would exclude his opportunity for a work permit. A struggle within me would lead me to realize that after all the struggles DREAMers have faced, we would only be given “bread crumbs” at a crucial time of the president’s campaign for re-election. It is not easy to accept that youth would be used as a powerful tool to win the Latino vote, but then again, what other option do folks have when faced with the reality of a Republican nominee who has not been supportive of an opportunity for DREAMers or comprehensive immigration reform.

Many questions cross my mind as everything is still fresh and not yet concrete about what the future holds for the deferred action policy. And the most important of all is what remains of those DREAMers such as my brother who have simply been excluded of this opportunity due to age?

Like many I am fortunate to be able to qualify for the deferred action policy, and even though it is not what we DREAMers have fought for, I believe that it should push us fortunate DREAMers to continue the struggle for a just and concrete immigration reform. I truly believe that we need to be reminded that in order for us to know where to go, we need to constantly be reminded where we came from, and the struggles we overcame in the process. I have heard the fear and doubts many have about this policy, and I can only speak for myself when I say that we have two options regarding the policy, which are to either accept it and prove the critics wrong, or continue to live in fear of those who have oppressed us for too long.


As an Undocumented Youth, Why I'm Skeptical of Obama's Work Visa Program
By C-Flo

As an undocumented person that met all the requirements being stated, I started to get very emotional and immediately happy when I first heard about the policy.

After about a good 10 minutes of daydreaming about what I will do after I get legal residency and not have to worry about living in the shadows, I started thinking about all the actions that the government has done in the past few years to get rid of the same “illegals” they seem to want to help now. I thought of programs like the Secure Communities policy, which is making local law enforcement an extension of federal immigration enforcement, and Project Shield, which was the planting of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in police forces around the country. Both programs said that they were trying to help public safety, but were leading to deportations of innocent people, and separating of families.

I started reading the Homeland Security memo regarding “deferred action,” trying my best to look at this as a turn around from the prior enforcement based immigration policies. But as with most governmental documents, the most important aspects of both the possibilities and limitations of the policy were left unsaid.

I found that the policy only gives "discretion" against immigration proceedings, as it reads, "DHS cannot provide any assurance that relief will be granted in all cases." (memorandum page 2 line 11) Working closely with various immigration and criminal cases through the Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project, discretion is a very good word on paper, but in practice this word is a totally different story. Discretion means you have to trust the authorities to decide whether or not your case is serious enough for deportation, which can be different based on the political standpoint of who is looking at it.

Another thought I had at the time of reading the prerequisites for deferred action is that you cannot have a criminal history. There are a number of good kids that have been in the United States their whole life and for one reason or another have gotten caught up for totally innocent reasons of just being at the wrong place at the wrong time, or have been wrongfully arrested, or overly sentenced.

Another part of the memorandum that caught my eye was about the legal limbo people who signed up for it would be in. While reading the memorandum (page 2 line 24.) "ICE should exercise prosecutorial discretion, on an individual basis, for individuals who meet the above criteria by deferring action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, in order to prevent low priority individuals from being removed from the United States." This language states that deferred action is used only as a pause to deportation for a period of two years. If read correctly, one is subject to be deported two years later if the deportee does not meet the assigned criteria that the deferred action program mandates.

And for me, here was the kicker. It reads, "This memorandum confers no substantive right, immigration status or pathway to citizenship." (memorandum; Page 3 line 11) This issue really saddens me for the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of people thinking the exact opposite. My own parents have come up to me saying, "Mijo, you can get your papers now!" Friends saying, "you're on your way to be legal man, congratulations!"

I wish I could put all my trust in the government and the steps it takes. But until they prove to do their best, like actually giving a pathway to some sort of permanent residency or citizenship, I can't. And at the end of the day, that's why I won't be applying for the deferred action policy.

Is the deferred action plan the beginning of some great new immigration reform? Or is this simply a desperate last action publicity stunt for some extra votes right before the November elections? You be the judge, just be sure to use discretion.

(Upon request of the author, his name has been changed to protect his identity.)


Illustration and comic by Adrian Avila // Video By Jean Melesaine

This article is part of the categories: Community  / Immigration  / Law & Justice 
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What smart, thoughtful people. I feel frustrated for them. These people would be an asset to any community. Obama's plan gives them two years, then a dip into the unknown.

Not if they organize. When we move from individual concerns to group planning and strategy, we can become a force. Obama's 2-year program identifies people who can connect with one another. When there are thousands of young people working together there may be no end of demands they can put on elected officials and, because of their numbers, the elected officials will have to take their demands seriously.

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