By Brenda Rincón,
COACHELLA, Calif. – Cris* was only 12 years old when she left Atlixco, Puebla, with her brother and sister to join their parents in the United States.
Cris – along with her dreams of one day becoming an artist – nervously climbed over the border fence near Mexicali. Once the scared children made it to the other side, they met up with the person charged with driving them to Coachella.
Now 20 years old, the College of the Desert art student’s childhood dreams finally seem within reach because of the new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program established by the Obama administration.
Under this program, eligible youth can file applications to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to avoid deportation and obtain the right to work. USCIS began accepting applications, available on its website, on August 15. The application fee is $465.
“This opens the doors for me and many other students because we finally know that when we finish our studies, we will be able to work,” said Cris, who dreams of working as a Pixar animator or a fashion designer. “We work so hard to find the money for school, and now we know we can pursue our life’s dreams when we graduate.”
Undocumented students like Cris can learn more about this program at a Deferred Action information fair hosted by Leaders of Tomorrow this Saturday, August 18, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 53-462 Enterprise Way in Coachella. The event will feature two identical sessions presented by immigration lawyer Russell Jauregui, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 to 3 p.m.
“Some people think Deferred Action is amnesty or the DREAM Act, but it’s nothing like that,” said Jose M. Chiquito, director of Leaders of Tomorrow, a group of local college students. “This is for students with a clean record, those with a criminal background can not apply.”
Chiquito, 21, a pre-med student at University of Laverne who is a legal resident, plans to come home to Coachella on weekends to help students learn about and apply for Deferred Action.
“The lack of information affects our community greatly, especially in Thermal and Mecca where people don’t have Internet access,” said Chiquito. “Television commercials are telling people that amnesty is here and the DREAM Act has passed. The students who have been waiting so long for this can easily fall for it and get scammed.”
Although he is aware that many people are opposed to his point of view, Chiquito strongly believes that students who came to the United States as children, have a good record, and speak the English language deserve the opportunity to stay.
“If they are good citizens and have lived their lives here, there is no justification to make them leave,” he says.
As for Cris, she is pulling together the necessary documents to submit her Deferred Action application as soon as possible. After that, she plans to complete her studies at COD and transfer to a California State University to continue working toward her dreams.
“For me, the United States is a blessing, it has given me many opportunities that I wouldn’t have in my country,” says Cris. “This country has always opened its doors to everyone, it was built by immigrants. I want to be one of the immigrants who continues to build this country.
“This country has done so much for me, why can’t I give something back to my country, the USA?”
Information about Deferred Action event: [email protected] or (760) 335-6864.
Information about Deferred Action program: www.uscis.gov/childhoodarrivals
* Name withheld at her request.