By Kieran C. O Sullivan, Irish Pastoral Centre Immigration Counselor
Presidents Obama’s recent immigration directive issuing deferred action for undocumented immigrants present in the US is expected to result in the issuance of employment cards for over 800,000 immigrants. Immigration advocates across the country welcomed the decision which came about after years of inaction in Congress on Dream Act legislation and immigration reform. The President, when making the announcement, called on Congress to pass the Dream Act because it would grant citizenship to immigrant children. Last year, Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown came out against the Dream Act during the Dream campaign in Congress.
Under the new policy, undocumented immigrants under 30 without a criminal record who arrived in the US before they turned 16, and who have lived in the US for at least the last five years can apply for the “deferred action” that for two years eliminates the threat of deportation without granting citizenship. Applicants must have either obtained a high school diploma or GED, or be serving in the military or honorably discharged.
“I have been getting a lot of calls from people on this directive. A number of my existing clients will be taken out of the removal [deportation] system because of this,” said Chris Lavery an attorney who along with attorney Dan Harrington provides free legal advice at the IPC clinics each month. “We hope this will act as a catalyst for change in Congress so we will see a Dream Act or some type of reform passed.”
When asked if people would fear coming out of the shadows to register for this relief, Chris replied “I wouldn’t discourage people from coming forward and applying. We’re still waiting for the final regulations on the process which has been promised within 60 days.”
While it is difficult to confirm how many Irish immigrants will be able to avail of immigration relief through the directive, the news of the President's directive brought great joy to one Massachusetts Irish family whom we have helped over the past decade.
Allison came to the US in 1999 as a child. Years later, when most of her high school friends were getting drivers licenses she was unable to apply for one because she did not have a social security number. When her classmates were applying for college, Allison, living in fear because of her lack of immigration status, saw few avenues. Reflecting on this recently, she admitted that she was afraid to bring attention to herself. After her parents became legal residents, she was advised it would be many years before she could be issued a visa number and even then there would need to be legislative changes to allow her pursue the visa at the US Consulate.
Today, she is elated with the news that after a decade of living in the shadows, she can come out and shortly apply for employment authorization. “I love it here, and I love this country, but until this I felt trapped here,” Allison said in an interview for this article, “but now I can look at going to college and finally at the age of 26 can apply for a driver’s license.”
Allison hopes to be able to eventually visit Ireland should permanent residency be granted later via Dream act legislation. She has not been to her native Cork in 14 years.
“This news opens so many doors for her,” said her father Pat, “we’re so happy. I’m happier today than I was on the day I was granted my own green card.” Pat and his wife Olivia run a successful painting business on Cape Cod and over the years have been involved in immigration advocacy efforts at both state and national level.
The Irish Pastoral Centre will present information on the President’s directive at our next legal clinic on July 10th at 6:30 pm in the Banshee, 934 Dorchester Ave, Dorchester. If readers know of anyone who might be eligible for relief under the President’s directive, call the IPC at (617) 265-5300.