Hispanic youths in Macon seek protection from immigration enforcement

wcrenshaw@macon.comSeptember 1, 2012 

Jorge Buenrostro is a recent graduate of Westside High School who wants to go to college and then join the Air Force, but he could be a traffic stop away from being forced onto a bus headed for Mexico.

Buenrostro, 17, was among a group of youths at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church in Macon on Saturday meeting with an attorney in an effort of gain a temporary reprieve from the threat of deportation.

They were applying for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a federal initiative recently ordered by President Barack Obama. It allows those who arrived here illegally when they were under 16 and have no criminal record to gain a two-year deferment on any deportation proceedings. They could then reapply to extend the deferment if the program still exists -- which is a big if.

Macon immigration attorney Jennifer Moore said there may be only a small window of opportunity to get the deferment. It could end if Obama isn’t re-elected, and even if he is, there is a case in federal court challenging Obama’s authority to implement the program.

“There is a sense of urgency because you want to get into this program while you can get into it because it may not be available in a couple of months,” she said.

To be approved, applicants must be under the age of 31 on June 15, have no criminal history, and must either be in school or have a high school diploma or equivalency diploma.

The Obama Administration touted the program as a way to allow immigration officers to focus deportation efforts on those who have committed crimes. Officials also cited the unfairness of deporting youths who may have little familiarity with the country to which they are being deported.

Others say the deferment is an election-year ploy to curry favor with Hispanic voters.

Buenrostro, who came to the U.S. when he was 11, said being deported would be a crushing blow.

“It would put all of my dreams down,” he said.

Moore said the deferment is good because youths with the protection are more likely to report crime.

The deferment is not easy to get. The application costs $465, and because applicants get only one shot, they probably need the assistance of an attorney. It requires a significant amount of documentation to make the case for eligibility.

Saturday was a special event for the church. Moore has already seen about two dozen other clients individually seeking the deferment, which has been in place since only Aug. 15.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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