Starting this month, the City University of New York will offer free help applying for deferred action — a new federal program that grants temporary legal status to some undocumented immigrants so they may stay in the country and go to school or work without fear of deportation — at City Council members’ offices for all who are eligible.
“[CUNY] is doing its part to try to help those who are here qualify for legal status,” said Allan Wernick, director of CUNY Citizenship NOW!, at a town hall exploring the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City Sunday.
The deferred action program is available to undocumented immigrants who are 30 or younger and who came to the United States before their 16th birthday and meet various requirements, such as being in school or having a high-school diploma. It is not a path to citizenship, although it can be renewed every two years.
CUNY Citizenship NOW! will offer help applying for the program, as well as continued assistance with citizenship applications, at 30 Council member offices across the five boroughs.
Participating Queens Council members include James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), Peter Koo (D-Flushing), Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica), Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) and Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst).
Wernick said the services, previously only available to CUNY students, were opened to the wider public Oct. 1 through a grant from the Council.
“We’re very proud of that,” he said.
CUNY Citizenship NOW! is the largest of any university-based immigration service provider in the country and the largest free immigration service law provider in the city.
The town hall also explored the larger impact of the deferred action program, announced by the Obama administration in June and intended to operate similar to the DREAM Act.
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria), who moderated the event, said although she thinks the program is a terrific accomplishment, she would ultimately like to see Congress pass the DREAM Act in order to give young immigrants a path to citizenship.
“Our immigration system is broken and more needs to be done,” she said. “DREAMers represent our future. They are going to pursue their education, they are going to work hard, they are going to make a huge difference for our country.”
Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at kfrantz@cn
©2012 Community News Group
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