Students seeking temporary legal status flood local offices

Students seeking temporary legal status flood local offices (Image 1)

A month-old controversial federal immigration program is creating a lot of work for several Nashville offices.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was designed to help undocumented young people get temporary legal status.

Immigration attorney Elliott Ozment calls it the Dream Act.

“These kids are going to have an opportunity to have, to achieve their dreams and to have their opportunities fulfilled here in this country,” he said.

Ozment offers legal counsel to explain the program and to discuss qualifications and risks involved. He has more than 150 DACA applications proposed, pending, or filed through his office.

“At the very least, it will give them the ability to work and study legally in the U.S,” he explained.

The federal program is run through the Department of Homeland Security.

An estimated 1.7 million undocumented immigrants could qualify, including thousands from Tennessee.

Applicants must have been brought to the United States before turning 16 and must be a current student or high school graduate.

Each must have lived in the U.S. for at least five years and must be under the age of 30.

Applicants can not be felons, have significant or multiple misdemeanors, nor pose a threat to national security.

According to Ozment, DACA status will provide undocumented immigrants an employment card with a picture. The employment card will allow each immigrant to get a social security card that will remain effective for life, even if the DACA program is terminated.

While Ozment and other local attorneys are handling the legal process, Metro-Nashville Public Schools is handing records requests.

“From August 1, which was the first day of school, through September 18 or so, we had 1,915 requests,” said Olivia Brown, Director of Communications with Metro Nashville Public Schools.

DACA applicants must provide proof of current or previous education. Brown told Nashville's News 2 the increase in records requests cannot be directly tied to DACA. However, the DACA application process started August 15, 2012, the same time the number of requests spiked.

Records requests through Metro schools have increased more than 70% compared to the same time last year, averaging at least 60 requests per day in last the few weeks.

Temporary staffing has been added to pull records, but the work still takes time.

“They should allow 10 days for that request to be fulfilled,” Brown said.

There is no deadline for the application process, but Ozment feels there is reason to obtain any necessary records and apply now.

“The state Department of Motor Vehicles is issuing driver's licenses to anyone that comes in that has a Deferred Action status,” he said. “We have been advised that certain representatives might be filing a bill in the legislature in January to change that.”

Ozment plans to fight that move with legal action if necessary.

DACA status is effective for two years. The application fee is $465. Approval can take four to six months.

Current and former MNPS students seeking school records should make requests to the school directly if currently enrolled or in attendance within the last three years.

Graduates out of school more than three years should make requests to the Metro School Records Office by mail or through the Customer Service Center. The fee is $3 per transcript.

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