When Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made comments to media about the Obama administration’s deferred action program, chances are he wasn’t planning to inspire new applicants for temporary legal status. But it seems he has.
The program, which took effect in August, allows young undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children to apply for a two-year reprieve from deportation. Romney commented last week that if he is elected, he’d honor the reprieves already granted, but his campaign later clarified that he would eliminate the program. And this, in turn, has prompted some would-be applicants who’d sat on the fence to get their paperwork ready.
“I heard what he said, that he didn’t approve it,” said Vanessa Guerrero, a 24-year-old who is currently working on her application. “It made me feel afraid. If he comes into office, then he is going to terminate that program. I thought about it, and I’m not going to wait.”
Neither are other applicants, says immigration attorney Alma Rosa Nieto. Usually she accepts clients by appointment, but now she’s seeing more walk-ins like Guerrero. “I’m seeing two things,” Nieto said. “One is there is a fear that this is going to end, and this was before the Romney announcement. And now there is more fear, because they fear that if President Obama doesn’t get elected, the new president would go ahead and eliminate this executive order. People are very aware of it in the news and in Spanish media, so the fear is heightened.”
At the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, an immigrant advocacy organization that is assisting deferred action applicants, staff members are hearing similar concerns. “Many people want to apply before the elections so that if Romney wins they will have at least gone through the process,” wrote CHIRLA executive director Angelica Salas in an email. “It would be difficult to take away an individual grant of discretion but the program certainly could be discontinued.”
But there are still some who are waiting until after the election, provided Obama wins, “to make sure that they do not risk coming forward and then being deported,” she said.