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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Illegals With Degrees Able To Work Legally

by Daniel Gonzalez, The Arizona Republic: PHOENIX — Carlos Martinez has two engineering degrees from the University of Arizona, but he has never been able to use them because he is an illegal immigrant.

But soon, the Tucson resident will be able to work legally after becoming one of the first undocumented immigrants in the country to be approved for a work permit under President Barack Obama's controversial deferred-action program.

Martinez, 30, said he was notified Sept. 14 that he had been granted permission to stay in the country temporarily for two years and that his work permit was being processed. He received a second notification on Sept. 18 that his work permit had been mailed. He expects to receive it as early as today, clearing the way for him to apply for jobs as a computer-software engineer, his dream job. . . .

As of Sept. 19, just 29 of the 82,361 undocumented immigrants nationally who have applied for deferred action have had their cases completed, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. It is not known if all those cases have been approved.

Under the program, undocumented immigrants granted deferred action can remain in the country for two years without the threat of deportation. They also receive work permits and can reapply after two years.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials initially said it could take several months for the applications to be processed. The first applications, however, were approved in about a month.

Critics of the program say the speed at which some of the applications have been approved raises concerns about fraud and suggests the program's main goal is to score political points for Obama among Latino voters as the election campaign heats up.

"The only deterrent to fraud is thoroughness," said Steven Camarota, research director at the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C., think tank that opposes the program. "Given what we know about how the immigration bureaucracy normally works, (the speed of approvals) raises all those questions."

The reason behind the sudden expediency may be "political, if you want to get the political dividend," Camarota said.

The program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is aimed at undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. when they were minors, are under age 31 and have lived continuously in the U.S. for five years.

Obama has said he was motivated to administratively allow undocumented immigrants to apply for deferred action because Congress has failed to pass the Dream Act, a bill that would allow undocumented high-school graduates brought to the U.S. as minors to become citizens if they completed at least two years of college or served two years in the military.

But some Republicans in Congress have called the program a "backdoor amnesty" that rewards illegal immigrants.

As many as 1.7 million young illegal immigrants in the country may be eligible to apply, including 80,000 in Arizona, according to some estimates.

Obama announced the program on June 15. The federal government began accepting applications on Aug. 15. . . . . Read More

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