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1/9/2013 10:13:00 AM
Catholic Charities marks first undocumented youth approval
Catholic News Service photo
Young people wait in line in late August for assistance with paperwork for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles in Los Angeles.
Catholic News Service photo
Young people wait in line in late August for assistance with paperwork for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles in Los Angeles.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Portland is celebrating its first approved application under a federal program to halt deportations of undocumented youths who arrived in the U.S. as children.

The largest nonprofit immigration legal service for undocumented youth in Oregon, Catholic Charities is heavily involved in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Noe Martinez, 20, has been granted deferred action status, which means two years of freedom from the fear of deportation, plus the ability to further his education.

“Being able to get DACA not only opens up opportunities but it also means I can pursue my dream of getting a nursing degree and reaching out to help those with fewer chances in life,” Martinez says.

Martinez came to the United States from Mexico when he was eight. Growing up without papers meant growing up with uncertainty over how he would pursue an education and how he would be able to find work.

In June, the Obama Administration announced the new program. Applicants must fit certain guidelines to apply. Successful applicants can get a Social Security number and go to work.

Martinez is currently a second year student at a community college. Now that he has his DACA status, he will be applying to nursing courses, something that would have been impossible before. He is delighted and says he hopes to see more progress on immigration from Congress.

“I hope that somehow both parties – Democrats and Republicans – can come together and compromise to find a long term solution on this issue,” Martinez explains.

His case is one of hundreds supported by Catholic Charities since August, when the government began accepting applications for deferred action. Catholic Charities has worked with around 300 clients on their cases and has given free presentations about the program to about 2,000 people in Oregon.

“We support the DACA program because it allows undocumented, yet talented and energetic, youth to openly participate in our communities," says Sarah McClain, who manages Catholic Charities immigration legal services. "These individuals came to the United States as young children and through no fault of their own. For many, the U.S. is the only country they have ever known. Their contributions make us stronger and more competitive.”

John Marandas, Oregon Chapter President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, says the country "desperately needs a real, permanent solution.” In the mean time, Marandas is grateful for the work Catholic Charities does.



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