The Legal Aid Society Is Assisting Young Undocumented Immigrants In New York City Apply for Deferred Action

On June 15, 2012, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) announced that it will exercise prosecutorial discretion and grant Deferred Action to qualified undocumented youth brought to the U.S. as children. This executive action will enable undocumented immigrant youth avoid deportation and contribute their talents, hard work and initiative to this country. As a result of the June 15, 2012, executive action by the federal government, The Legal Aid Society is already experiencing a significant increase in requests for legal help from young people who may be eligible for Deferred Action.

The announcement by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) targets individuals referred to as “Dreamers.” These individuals would have benefited from the DREAM Act, legislation that would have provided young people who were brought to the US as children and meet certain criteria, a path to legal status. For those individuals who qualify and whose applications are eventually granted, Deferred Action will be extremely beneficial. It means that the DHS will not seek to deport the individual, but it does not provide lawful status or a path to citizenship. Individuals who are granted Deferred Action, which is renewable in two years, can apply for work permits that allow them to work lawfully in the U.S., obtain a Social Security number and driver’s license, and essentially live without the constant fear of deportation.

To establish eligibility, an individual must:

  • Be 15-30 years old (born on or after June 16, 1981)
  • Have entered the U.S. before age 16 and be under 31 as of June 15, 2012
  • Have continuously lived in the U.S. for at least 5 years before June 15, 2012 and have been physically present in the US as of June 15, 2012
  • Have entered the U.S. without inspection before June 15, 2012, or have had lawful immigration status that expired as of June 15, 2012
  • Not have been convicted of a felony, a “significant misdemeanor,” or three or more misdemeanors of any kind, and not pose a threat to public safety or national security and
  • Currently be enrolled in school, have graduated from high school or have a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces or Coast Guard

Prior to the federal government’s announcement, Legal Aid could help only one out of every nine immigrants who came to us seeking assistance with their immigration cases. A majority of these low-income clients are incapable of navigating the complex immigration processes on their own. We anticipate that the demand for our legal help will increase exponentially as a result of this Executive action that will affect an estimated 70,100 New York immigrant youth.

Working with the Mayor’s Office, the New York City Council recently selected The Legal Aid Society to take a leadership role in the city-wide response to Deferred Action for Undocumented Youth. The Legal Aid Society will conduct trainings for City Council Immigrant Opportunities Initiative (IOI) funded community-based organizations and legal services providers to ensure that these organizations have up-to-date and accurate information, provide quality screening and application assistance, and refer complicated cases, especially those with criminal issues, to Legal Aid. We are also collaborating with community-based partners and other legal services providers, to ensure that New York immigrants eligible for this benefit receive comprehensive screening for possible permanent lawful status and quality application assistance.

Because immigration law is very complicated, we encourage eligible immigrants to contact reputable immigration attorneys or legal services organizations before filing any application. All immigrants are cautioned to avoid notarios, travel agents and unscrupulous immigration service providers.

Qualified immigrants can submit applications for Deferred Action and employment authorization, with a filing fee of $465, on or after August 15, 2012. In an effort to target Deferred Action service, the Society’s Immigration Law Unit began hosting free application assistance clinics August 20, 2012. For information about our application assistance events, see schedule of upcoming clinics: English | Español.

Additional Resources

  • Upcoming Deferred Action Clinics - English | Español
  • The Legal Aid Society's "Deferred Action" General Eligibility Factsheet - English | Español | French | Chinese
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) Frequently Asked Questions - Chinese
  • The Legal Aid Society’s Criminal Bar Advisory - English
  • The Legal Aid Society’s Travel Advisory, about traveling abroad - English
  • The Legal Aid Society's Public Health Insurance Advisory - English
  • DHS Press Release on Deferred Action for Young People - English | Español
  • DHS Memo on Deferred Action - English
  • USCIS Flyer on Deferred Action for Young People - English | Español

For more information, please visit or call The Legal Aid Society’s Deferred Action Hotline at 1-855-DREAM-81 (1-855-873-2681).