Mexican consul to Las Vegas raises awareness about deferred action program

Twice the number of young undocumented immigrants in Nevada who have applied to legally remain and work in the country may be eligible for those benefits, said Julian Adem, Mexican consul in Las Vegas.

His office soon will launch a campaign and will work with Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional, which provides immigration services, to publicize the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

In 2012, President Barack Obama used his executive authority to allow young undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children to stay in the country without the fear of deportation, providing those who are eligible with a two-year work permit.

But the program has been “underrepresented,” Adem said last week.

Earlier this month, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson announced the renewal process for the work permits. In Nevada, 10,564 young immigrants have applied. As of March 9, 243 had been approved, according to statistics from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

As of April, more than 560,000 such permits have been approved nationwide. The majority of recipients are from Mexico.

Some permits will begin to expire in September.

The program fee to renew or to apply for the first time is $465. The Mexican Consulate will assist a limited number of young men and women who are experiencing a financial hardship, Adem said.

“No one goes without getting their (deferred action) paperwork because they didn’t have cash in hand,” he said.

His office recommends that program participants renew their permits about four months before it expires to prevent a gap in their status, he said.

The Mexican Consulate will not only help those who need to renew their permits, it will also assist new applicants.

Given the about 3,000 clients the office in Las Vegas sees every month, Adem estimates that another 10,000 young immigrants in the Silver State might qualify for the program. His office estimates that about 300,000 immigrants live in the state.

“If they have doubts, they can visit us — we take walk-ins,” he said.

People might still not know about the program or they might not have a high school diploma, given the high school dropout rate in the state, or they might have a misdemeanor.

About a third of Clark County School District’s seniors in 2013 were Hispanic, making it the largest ethnic group with 10,883 students out of a class of 28,059, according to the Nevada Department of Education. But Hispanics in 2013 had one of the lowest graduation rates at 66 percent, below the district’s average of 72 percent.

“If they pass the (general educational development) exams, they can qualify,” Luz Marina Mosquera, director at Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional said in Spanish.

To be eligible for the deferred action program, young undocumented immigrants must have come to the country as children, must be at least 15 or must have been younger than 31 when the program first started two years ago. They also must have been in high school, graduated or obtained a general educational certificate or be an honorably discharged veteran.

Participants can’t have a serious criminal background.

“There are still youth who are in limbo — some because they are afraid and others because they don’t know” about the program, Mosquera said.

They hope that now that the program has been extended, it will lessen the fear of those who think they might be deported if they apply, she said.

Her organization has helped 3,728 young undocumented immigrants apply since the program started.

“We want to double that number,” Mosquera said.

Nevadans for a Common Good, a local nonprofit, will also be working on this issue. Lead organizer Robert Hoo said the organization will spread the word about the need to renew the permits and will try to find out what barriers prevent some from applying. It will also look at how to increase legal services for immigrants in the community.

“We consider this one of the most important programs in the last couple of decades in favor of immigrants,” Adem said.

Contact Yesenia Amaro at yamaro@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0440. Find her on Twitter: @YeseniaAmaro.