Several Elkin youths are part of the more than 45,000 eligible young people who have received deferred action status in the United States, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is legislation proposed by President Obama that prevents prosecution of young undocumented immigrants, but only after they apply and receive “deferred action” status.
President Obama proposed the act to provide many students in the United States the opportunity to continue their education beyond high school at a college or university and to pursue professional careers.
However, the proposal does have speciﬁc limitations. Applicants must be 15 years old and not over 31 years of age. Only young people who have lived in the United States over ﬁve years and are currently still in school or have earned a high school diploma or GED are eligible to apply. Honorably discharged veterans are also eligible.
The legislation allows deferred action recipients to get a Social Security card in order to obtain a job, and they can get a driver’s license legally in North Carolina. Deferred action status is currently only valid for two years if accepted. After two years the recipient is required to re-apply.
The entire process takes about four months. Many applicants either go to a lawyer to help with the process or visit a notary who can help with the paperwork.
Elkin High School junior Miguel Cortez has completed the process and is now protected under deferred action.
“I wanted to be able to get my driver’s license, and to be able to work and get paid. Although North Carolina is my home, I would also like to visit my relatives in Mexico,” Cortez said.
Cortez completed the process by ﬁrst going to Raleigh to get his passport at the Mexican consulate, which required a photo ID. Next, he had to ﬁll out the application, and send it in along with copies of his passport, school transcripts, proof of living in the United States for ﬁve years, and his birth certiﬁcate.
After his application was accepted, he waited until his appointment in Charlotte with government officials, during which his ﬁngerprints were taken. Then he waited for three months for his work permit to come through the mail, and then he went to the Social Security office in Mount Airy to apply for a Social Security number.
Two weeks later he received his social security card, and he now has his driver’s license and a job.
Cortez worked with a notary to complete the process, and it cost him over $1,000. However, he said he believes it was well worth the time and effort.
“I feel safer now; I can drive and ﬁnd work,” he said. “I want to go to college. I feel like all of that is possible now.”