The Obama administration’s decision to stop deporting certain undocumented youth under the age of 30 is a life-changer for many young people Puente serves on the South Coast, says Kerry Lobel, executive director of Puente.
“People are totally overwhelmed with joy at the idea of it.”
While the announcement has yet to become official policy, parents have already come to Puente to ask what this could mean for their children’s lives. It can be hard to explain that this is not a path to citizenship, says Lobel; undocumented youth will be able to work legally, but they can’t vote or enjoy the many privileges and responsibilities that come with citizenship.
To explain the announcement and its implications, Puente has invited two attorneys — Rosa Gomez from Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto and David Pasternak, Private Immigration Attorney and long time Puente supporter — to a community meeting on July 16 at 6 p.m., in the Pescadero Elementary School Multipurpose Room.
Some South Coast students have already faced deportation. Other young people around the country have been sent back to their “home” countries, even if they’ve lived nearly all their lives in the U.S.
More than 700,000 undocumented students, including 150,000 high school students, could benefit from the new policy. Hector Martinez* is one of them. The 16-year-old has lived in Pescadero all his life. His mother brought him here from Mexico as a 1-year-old. Growing up, he realized he wouldn’t be able to get a legal job without a work permit. Getting a California driver’s license was also out of the question, since he’d need a valid Social Security number.
Someday, Martinez would like to be an auto mechanic.
“I don’t have a criminal record. I’ve been here my whole life,” says Martinez.
“It’s pretty much my goal to go to college and earn my citizenship.”
Lobel says she cried with relief when she heard the announcement. It’s not a perfect solution – it doesn’t come close to the DREAM Act, for instance – but it does give local youth the chance to have productive lives without living in fear.
“Year after year, I see kids reaching that magic age of wanting to work and get driver’s licenses, and they’re completely left behind,” says Lobel. “Up until that point in high school there’s not difference – you’re just a kid. You reach that age and it’s like you’re becoming a criminal.”
*Hector’s name has been changed.
For details about the community meeting, contact Puente Executive Director Kerry Lobel at firstname.lastname@example.org or (650) 879-1691 x144.