The Mexican Consulate in Phoenix is assisting young undocumented immigrants applying for work permits through the Obama administration's deferred action program. The new policy allows certain immigrants temporary relief from deportation if they qualify.
Mexican government officials can't tell U.S. immigration who to give the 2-year renewable work permits to, but the consulate is trying to facilitate the process by prioritizing undocumented immigrants applying for Mexican passports.
Those passports are crucial because they will allow the so-called DREAMers to prove their identities when applying for a work permit.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will start accepting applications for deferred action and work permits for a fee of $465 starting August 15, according to its website.
In order to qualify, a DREAMer must be between the ages of 16 to 30 and have lived in the U.S. for five consecutive years. An applicant must have no felonies, and have or be working toward a high-school diploma or have served honorably in the military.
"We're giving priority to the DREAMers who are seeking orientation," says Socorro Cordova, a spokeswoman for the local Mexican Consulate. "We've also done forums specifically for thousands [of young immigrants] to inform them."
The consulate is asking that DREAMers identify themselves when applying for a passport, so they can be pushed up the line. DREAMers can also consult with immigration lawyers the agency has on hand to help them prepare for the process.
Since the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced the change of policy toward DREAMers on June 15, the consulate has issued about 200 Mexican passports to young immigrants.
According to a study released Tuesday by the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington D.C.-based think tank, there are 80,000 potential beneficiaries in Arizona who can apply for the work permit.
Most of them are Mexico-born immigrants, which is why the Mexican Consulate is working with local pro-immigrant organizations such as the Arizona Dream Act Coalition to help assist eligible applicants.
"It's [speculated] that they will need some sort of identification when the application process comes out," explained Reyna Montoya, an ADAC member. "The Mexican Consulate...wants to ensure that they don't leave any DREAMer behind."
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A 3-year Mexican passport costs $74, a 6-year passport costs $101.
USCIS has made it known that in order for an immigrant to prove eligibility, he or she will need plenty of documentation, like official school transcripts, a high-school diploma or a GED certificate, employment and medical records.
If the application is denied the applicant cannot appeal. And if the undocumented immigrant has a serious crime record, he or she will be deported, according to USCIS officials.
Though advocates are saying a lawyer isn't needed to apply for deferred action, immigration lawyers recommend applicants consult with one of them, if the undocumented immigrant has ever been arrested, even for a misdemeanor.