For years Julian Gomez, 20, suffered in silence with a secret. His family overstayed their tourist visa after they moved from Argentina to Miami when he was one. Without identification, he couldnt apply for student loans, a job or a drivers license.
He graduated summa cum laude from Coral Park Senior High, is an honors student at Miami-Dade College and an avid Harry Potter fan. After President Barack Obama announced June 15 that an immigration initiative the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program would temporarily shield him from deportation, he came out as an Undocumented American on a YouTube video.
In the video sponsored by a popular Harry Potter fan network he explained why, in his view, if the wizard were real, he would support immigration reform. It got 15,400 views.
In times of high unemployment and economic stagnation, many say that is imperative for the United States to discourage immigrants who have come here illegally, even if they had no choice in the matter, because their parents brought them. After all, at a time when many college graduates cant land a job in their field of study and national unemployment is at 7.8 percent, doesn't an abundance of young undocumented immigrants make the job market appreciably worse?
Gomez doesn't think so. He believes that giving undocumented students identification will help them put their entrepreneurial spirit to use, which will improve the economy and reduce unemployment. Studies have shown that immigrants tend to be more entrepreneurial than others.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, is changing the lives of an estimated 1.7 million people nationwide. It provides protected status for two years, a work permit and a drivers license in some states. (Arizona and Nebraska are notable exceptions.)
Hundreds of families have been flooding Florida International University College of Laws main hall in West Miami-Dade asking for legal help. The schools Carlos A. Costa Immigration and Human Rights Clinic has been offering free clinics on Saturdays since August.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) began to accept applications Aug. 15. CIS officials promoting the program have said that the information is not submitted to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or Customs and Border Protection unless fraud is involved. But not everyone is convinced, and there are risks.
As of Sept. 13, officials had accepted 82,361 requests for processing, and completed only 29. The program does not provide a path to citizenship, and the renewal in two years is not certain.
I brought my son from Peru when he was 4. I waited until he was an adult to tell him that he was an illegal. It was the worst day of my life, Sonia Fernandez, 48, said. He was depressed and suffered a stroke at only 19 because of stress. Im still afraid. We thought about it carefully. Not everyone is applying.
It was Fernandezs second time at the clinic Sept. 15. She and her son Franco were having trouble completing his evidentiary documentation package. Applicants must be 15 and older, and must prove that they were younger than 31 on June 15, arrived before the age of 16 and have resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007. High school education and criminal records are also important factors.