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Posted Jul 3, 2012, 5:33 pm
Five hundred "Dreamer Information" sheets were distributed Monday at Pueblo Magnet High School's cafeteria to hundreds of young people interested in avoiding deportation by attaining "deferred action" status as undocumented immigrants to the United States.
Ben Gamez, a 23-year-old Tucson resident and 2007 Pueblo Magnet High School graduate who attended the event, said he is an illegal immigrant who meets all the requirements to remain in the country. President Barack Obama's announced last month that teens and young adults who are at least 15 years old, who came to the U.S. before age 16, and meet certain other requirements can apply for "deferred action" and avoid deportation two years at a time.
Gamez said he was brought into the United States from Mexico illegally when he was seven months old.
His family is from Hermosillo, Sonora. His father was deported three years ago after a traffic stop in Tucson and authorities determined he had been deported previously and was in the United States illegally.
Gamez said his father had worked in Tucson for 20 years before the deportation and said he has not seen his father since he was removed to Mexico. His mother, who bore three other sons in Tucson, is also back in Mexico, after going back for a family emergency. She cannot legally enter the United States.
His three brothers are U.S. citizens because they were born in Arizona. They can legally travel back and forth to see family in Mexico. But Gamez said he can't go to Mexico for a visit and return to Arizona because he is here illegally. An attorney is already assisting with his deferred action paperwork.
Gamez lives in a home owned by his grandfather, who lives south of the border in Hermosillo. He is studying computer engineering at Pima Community College and wants to work in "anything with computers."
Margo Cowan, an attorney for some of the undocumented youth seeking to stay in Arizona, said Monday's event was organized by U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva with the aim of helping young aliens remain in the United States legally and indefinitely.
Cowan, a public defender for Pima County, said she took the afternoon off to work on Grijalva's effort to take the pressure off the perhaps thousands of illegal aliens in the Tucson area who may become eligible to remain in the United States.
If they are approved, they could remain in the U.S. legally for two years, to attend school and be authorized to work. They must be registered in school at the time they apply, already have a high school diploma or GED and not have been convicted of a felony. They must be able to produce a birth certificate or baptismal certificate or matricular consular from the Mexican government.
Cowan said the youth who fill out the "Dreamer Information" sheet Grijalva's office provided will be helped through the Deferred Action for Dreamers Program without having to hire an attorney or pay a notary.
At the Monday event, teens and their families were told that even if an illegal alien is currently in removal proceedings, the alien can ask the government's lawyer to agree to grant the youth deferred action for two years.
Deferred action is granted for two years when the U.S. government determines "it is not in the best interest of the government to deport an individual," according to the information provided by Grijalva's office.
A flyer provided at the Monday event states "there is no limit to how many times a (deferred action) case can be renewed."
Attendees were told they can either apply with the assistance of the Deferred Action for Dreamers Program or wait to be detained by Customs and Border Patrol or Immigration and Customs Enforcement and permit those agencies to determine whether they are eligible for deferred action.
Grijalva spoke at the event and affirmed his commitment to helping the students remain in the United States to continue their studies.
TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.