East Haven residents gathered at the Senior Center for a meeting on the new changes in deportation regulations. Many wanted to understand how they would be affected and what benefits they may now have. Most were excited about the new opportunities for them to become more of the community.
There were huge lines outside federal agencies this week, as people waited to apply for a new federal program that allows undocumented immigrants to work and stay in the United States temporarily.
People in Connecticut are learning how to take advantage of the program. Like most 19-year-olds, Marlen Lara wants to go to school and eventually land a good career.
“Get astable job that’s well-paid, that can also help me help my parents,” said Lara.
However, there’s one thing standing in her way: her immigration status. Lara was illegally brought to the U.S. by her parents when she was a baby.
“I came here [at] nine months. So, I’m basically raised here,” said Lara.
Lara is undocumented; she can’t get a driver’s license or work. She’s applying to the Obama administration’s controversial deferral program.
Opponents argue it’s amnesty, but supporters say it’s not a pathway to citizenship.
“It’s not really a legal status, but it’s an opportunity for those who wish to pursue it to get a work authorization and protection from deportation,” said Susan Nofi-Bendici, from New Haven Legal Assistance.
Dozens gathered tonight for an informational session, to learn more about the program, which would grant young, undocumented immigrants work permits, while stalling their deportation for two years.
“It’s for people that [came to this country] before they were 16-years-old. They need to be under 31 as of June 15 when it was announced. You need to have a clean criminal record,” added Nofi-Bendici.
For Livia Gutierrez, the program represents something bigger. She said it’s her son’s chance at the American dream.
“It’s more opportunities for him now,” said Gutierrez.
Lara said if she gets the green light from the program, she’d like to spend part of her two years giving back to those who have helped her.
“[I’d like to do some] service. Community service,” stated Lara.
The deferral program is being handled by citizen and immigration services. About 1.5 million people are eligible.