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Young Illegal Immigrants Get Temporary Legal Status in NYC

Young Illegal Immigrants Get Temporary Legal Status in NYC

By Shoshana Lauter

New York Press

Hundreds of undocumented young people in New York City began lining the block around St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Grand Street before dawn today, braving the rain and enduring an hours-long wait.

By noon, the crowd was excited and in high spirits. Today was the first day that these illegal immigrants could acquire temporary work permits and immigration status at various locations across New York City, including St. Mary’s.

These youth are among millions in America who would be eligible to receive permanent residency and documentation in the U.S. under the federal Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act.

While it has not been passed, President Obama has declared that his administration will stop deporting these eligible young people, and instead offer relief in the form of deferred action. This will grant those who are DREAM-eligible temporary legal immigration status and an employment authorization document.

“We need to reaffirm our commitment that America is a country built by immigrants, that America is a country based on the concept that diversity is our greatest strength,” Council Speaker Christine Quinn said at a press conference this afternoon inside the church.

According to the New York Immigration Coalition, approximately 110,000 New Yorkers are, or will be, eligible for deferred action. Starting today, immigration agencies and coalitions have set up locations throughout the city to begin helping undocumented youths under the age of 31 receive their documents, as long as they have moved to the country before age 16 and have no criminal record, among other requirements.

Standing in support was a group of elected officials, including Rep. Yvette Clarke and New York Secretary of State Cesar Perales. The officials praised President Obama for his fight for immigrants’ rights, but insisted that deferred action is not enough.

“This is a step in the right direction, but we have many more miles to go,” Clarke said.

Mayor Bloomberg’s Immigrant Affairs Commissioner, Fatima Shama, was one of many who joyfully teared up at the sight of so many youth celebrating their newly acquired rights.

“New York City is committed to remaining the most immigrant-friendly city in this country,” she said.

And government officials were not the only ones to raise their voices for the cause. Several young DREAMers who are active in New York immigration rights groups stood up to speak about their experiences and hopes.

Max Ahmed, a New York Immigration Coalition Fellow, spoke about how the people close to him, his family and teachers, have always been the ones that have believed in him. After working long and hard to acquire a chemical-engineering degree in college, Ahmed is finally receiving work permits today.

“The United States believes in me too,” he said.