Predicament of American daughter: Family separation
Sonia was born and raised in San Jose, California. From the outside, Sonia seemed like your typical happy-go-lucky senior in high school getting ready to go college, but at home, Sonia lives a different reality.
Her parents, Edgar and Rowena, are from the Philippines. They came to the United States when Rowena was pregnant with Sonia and decided to overstay their tourist visa.
Refused to leave
When Sonia was very young, her parents were arrested by the Immigration Service and were to be deported.
Edgar and Rowena, however, refused to leave the US and decided to stay. For years, they hid their status and tirelessly worked several under-the-table jobs so Sonia could study in the best schools and participate in after-school activities.
It was only recently that Sonia found out about her parents’ illegal status in the United States when she wanted to apply for private student loans for college.
Since finding out the truth about her parents’ illegal status, Sonia has been worried that her parents can be taken anytime from her and she’s scared of what will happen when she leaves for college.
She relies on her parents for everything, emotional and financial needs. In two weeks, Sonia will be turning 18 years old and instead of the usual birthday debut celebration, she told her parents not to prepare anything special.
Instead, she wanted to take steps to help her parents. Is there anything that Sonia can legally do for her parents?
More than a year ago, US President Barack Obama released two immigration executive actions that will provide immigration relief to undocumented parents of US citizens (called Dapa or Deferred Action for Parents of Americans); and, an expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) for undocumented young immigrants.
The Dapa and Daca will affect more than 4 million undocumented immigrants.
Instead of the implementation of these reliefs, however, a lawsuit was filed by 26 states. Currently, the implementation of Dapa, the program which was supposed to allow undocumented parents with US citizen children to obtain an employment authorization document and be deferred from removal, is still suspended until the US Supreme Court decides on this case.
It is expected a decision will be reached by June 2016. Until then, parents with US citizen children will have to avail of alternative options.
US citizen children may only petition their parents after they turn 21 years old. Until Sonia reaches this age, there is really nothing much she can do affirmatively to help her parents with their immigration status.
Even assuming that she turns 21 years old, there is a bigger hurdle that she has to overcome before she can file a petition for her parents.
The deportation order may be enforced anytime by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) against her parents if they are found to be still present in the United States.
Fortunately, there is “prosecutorial discretion” request that may be filed with the DHS to prevent this from happening.
Sonia’s case is very sympathetic and her desperation to help her parents is understandable considering that her parents are her only means of support.
She represents many young immigrants who are in the same situation and who were afforded the opportunity to be integrated into the American system just to be threatened with family separation with no relief available.
Hopefully, the Dapa litigation will result in a favorable judgment for the Obama administration and her parents will be given temporary relief.
(The author may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook
co.com or  721-1963.)
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