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Students hopeful after deportation rule shift

Obama's executive order permits some illegal immigrants to remain in the states without gaining citizenship.

June 24, 2012|By Megan O'Neil, megan.oneil@latimes.com
  • Nancy Guarneros, 25, right, hugs Jorge Gutierrez, 28, as they join more than 150 students and Dream Act supporters who rallied in downtown Los Angeles to voice support for President Obama's decision to halt the deportation of young illegal immigrants who have no criminal records and meet certain other criteria.
Nancy Guarneros, 25, right, hugs Jorge Gutierrez, 28,… (Al Seib / Los Angeles…)

A Glendale Community College counselor who works extensively with undocumented students said he welcomes the spirit of a recent executive order freezing the deportation of some young illegal immigrants, but added that it will have limited effect on their ability to achieve legal residency and get career-track jobs.

President Obama announced on June 15 that some illegal immigrants 30 years old and younger will be permitted to apply with the federal government for a two-year deportation waiver. To be eligible, an individual must have moved to the United States before the age of 16, have lived here continuously for at least five years and have a clean criminal record.

After the waiver expires, eligible individuals will be able to apply for a second two-year reprieve. Unlike the stalled Federal Dream Act, the policy change announced by Obama does not provide a path to citizenship.

The news was greeted with enthusiasm by some immigrants and their supporters, but criticized by others for not going far enough.

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Greg Perkins, who at Glendale Community College has counseled hundreds of undocumented students — known as AB 540 students — said he and others are waiting to see how Obama’s announcement shakes out.

It might protect against the immediate fear of deportation, and allow those eligible to secure temporary jobs, Perkins said. Still, the executive order does not necessarily clear a career path commensurate with their level of education.

“There are so many question marks here,” Perkins said. “The big difference is the [Federal] Dream Act would have provided students with a clear pathway to residency and eventually citizenship where they could easily pursue careers.”

During the spring semester, there were about 400 undocumented students enrolled at Glendale Community College, Perkins said. Their status often leaves them sidelined. They can’t apply for driver’s licenses. Some financial aid and scholarship opportunities are out of reach, as are certain specialized programs that require social security numbers or background checks.

AB 540 student Yazmin Moreno, 24, founded the immigration-focused student organization VOICES during her first year at Glendale Community College in 2005. She later transferred to Cal Poly Pomona, spending as many as five hours a day on the bus. Earlier this month, she became the first in her family to graduate from college, earning a degree in sociology.

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