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Undocumented Immigrants Cautious Of Policy

Kate Elston

Last week President Obama announced a temporary immigrant protection plan. It will allow eligible undocumented residents the chance to get a work permit. It will also cut back on certain deportations. As Kate Elston reports, those who qualify for the plan have reason to be both excited and cautious.


The new plan could affect up to 40,000 undocumented workers and students in Washington state. To qualify, they must have come to the United States before the age of 16 and must be under 30 now.

Friday morning's announcement was met with excitement.

Baron: "We have been fielding many, many calls and emails from community members who are interested in learning about what this means exactly."

That's Jorge Baron. He's the executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. Even though he's pleased with the announcement, he says that immigrants should approach the application process with caution. He says scammers are likely to demand money for fake legal services.

Baron: "A lot of people are very antsy, they wanna apply and make sure that they get in because they're concerned, how long is this gonna be in place. This is precisely the riskiest time because this is when people try to take advantage of people."

For some, the road ahead is risky for another reason. It means "coming out" as undocumented. That's the case for an incoming University of Washington freshman. Because of her legal status, Jessica declined to share her real name.

She came to the United States when she was four and is undocumented. Obama's policy will allow her to work legally. But in applying for the "deferred action," she'll have to reveal her status to those around her.

Jessica: "The only thing that I'm worried about with this is our employers are going to know we're undocumented — even our coworkers. It's just like, not everyone views immigrants here the same way, you know."

It could also mean exposing her family members. No one in Jessica's family is a legal citizen.

Jessica: "I mean, to be illegal, your parents must be illegal too, so you put them at risk as well."

Jorge Baron says he understands the worry, but he says it's unlikely immigration officials will target newly exposed undocumented people unless they have a criminal record.

Baron: "For a lot of people it's going to be something where the benefits outweigh the risks."

The Department of Homeland Security is expected to release the policy's application guidelines in August.

I'm Kate Elston for KUOW News.

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