In June, President Barack Obama announced that he would "defer action" on undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children and have lived here for five years, allowing them to avoid deportation and get a work permit. The announcement gave a lot of immigrants hope, but it has also stirred fears among those who stand to benefit.
What happens to people who apply for the deferred action if Obama loses the November election? Would their applications be used to deport them instead?
"The fear is out there," says Ramona Natera, an immigration attorney with the Catholic Multicultural Center. "Whether it's credible or not, we cannot say yet."
Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, who is active on immigration issues, agrees that many undocumented immigrants are uncertain.
"Even if Obama wins, they're applying for something that's going to put them into a database," she says. "That's something they need to weigh the benefits of and make a decision on."
If the immigrants are granted deferred action, it doesn't mean they're improving their chances for citizenship, Bidar-Sielaff adds.
"Deferred action doesn't make it any simpler to get in any line for citizenship, because there is no such line," she says. "If there is, in the near future, comprehensive immigration reform…our thinking is that they would be allowed [to become citizens]."
Deferred action would allow law-abiding immigrants who came here as children to live without the constant fear of discovery and deportation. They'd also be allowed to apply for a two-year work permit.
The Catholic Multicultural Center, 1862 Beld St., will host three informational workshops for people interested in applying for deferred action. The sessions - Sept. 21, Oct. 19 and Nov. 16 - will run from noon to 6 p.m. Attorneys working for free will be on hand to advise people and help them fill out applications.
Fifty families have already registered for the first session. Anyone wishing to sign up can call 608-441-1185.