NEW YORK—At a press conference on Tuesday in Queens, Congresswoman Grace Meng, elected officials, and immigration advocacy groups encouraged undocumented immigrants in New York to apply for deportation protection.
Meng along with such immigration advocates as Catholic Migration Services and New Immigrant Community Empowerment highlighted protections offered through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA allows qualified immigrants, under age 31, who arrived illegally as children to receive work permits and to stay in the United States for two years.
As a child, Antonio Alarcon immigrated to the United States from Mexico in 2005. Without official migrant status, Alarcon encountered barriers to working and furthering his education. He applied for deportation protection through DACA in 2012, and was subsequently approved.
Alarcon spoke on Tuesday of how he had benefited from the program. “It really changed my life,” he said. “I now have a social security number; I can work and study at the same time.” He has since helped over 1,000 fellow immigrants who entered the United states illegally apply for DACA.
From speaking to immigrants on the street to holding information screenings at schools, Alarcon uses every opportunity to tell undocumented immigrants to “make sure they qualify for DACA.” Young immigrants often realize the downfall of living in the United States without permission when they are unable to apply for college, he said.
DACA was put in place by President Obama in 2012. Since then, 560,000 immigrants have been granted DACA protection. Many, however, are unaware that they must reapply in order to avoid deportation. “Those people who are undocumented through no fault of their own must understand the requirement to reapply,” said Meng.
DACA protections that were applied for in 2012, begin to expire in September, said Meng. She added that there are many immigrants who remain eligible for the program, but have not reapplied for it.