Seeking Deferred Action, Young Immigrants With Blemished Records Give Pause

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dressed in matching grey vest and pants, his black hair neatly spiked, 24-year-old Cecilio set out in the West Village on a recent afternoon to find a job.

Cecilio, a college student who lives in Brooklyn, came to the U.S. from Mexico illegally when he was 13. He used a fake social security number to get a job at a fast food restaurant, where he worked for 10 years, rising up to assistant manager position. But during his recent job hunt, he didn’t use that fake number.

“I just leave this one in blank,” he said, pointing to the line reserved for a social security number on the application for any position at a juice specialty store on West 4th Street. “I don’t put anything, because I don’t have anything.”

Cecilio, who asked WNYC not to use his last name because he still hasn’t made his undocumented status known to the government, wants to apply for deferred action — a two year deportation deferral and work permit that would allow him to work legally for the first time. But he’s worried his past actions could lead to his request being denied.

At the advice of his attorney he’s stopped using the fake social. However, that’s not his only cause for hesitation.

Cecilio was stopped by the Border Patrol when he first tried to come to the U.S. He was fingerprinted and sent back to Mexico. Cecilio slipped into the country on his second attempt, which came only a day after the first one.

The United States and Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency, which will process requests for deferred action, hasn’t yet spelled out what will happen with cases like his, which have what his attorney, Lauren Burke, describes as “light pink flags.” Until there’s more information she said she wants to wait to submit the request for deferred action.

“If we hear of cases that were granted with some of the issues that Cecilio’s case has, then we’ll go forward,” Burke said. “I think it makes sense to pause a bit and see what the national climate is."

(Photo: Cecilio hunts for jobs in the West Village. He worked in a fast food restaurant for 10 years using a fake social security number. Mirela Iverac/WNYC)

Neither the repeated immigration violation nor the fake social disqualifies Cecilio from applying for deferred action, according to the guidelines from USCIS.  

He satisfies the criteria – he’s younger than 31, came into the country before he turned 16, has been here for more than five years, has a GED and no criminal record. USCIS has said only those who were convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor, or three or more non-significant misdemeanors are not eligible for deferred action.

It’s hard to estimate the number of young undocumenteds who have used fake social security numbers, but several attorneys said the issue has regularly come up during workshops on deferred action and legal clinics.

Currently 80,000 undocumented immigrants in New York State are eligible to apply for deferred action. An additional 30,000 will be able to do the same when they turn 15, the minimum age required to submit their request.

Young undocumented immigrants are asked to include all social security numbers they ever used when filling out the request for employment authorization. But lawyers and administration officials said they don’t know at this point whether omitting a fake social security number that was used will constitute a fraud.

USCIS has said next to those who commit fraud in their application, applicants who have a criminal conviction or present a national security or public safety threat could end up in deportation proceedings.

Ben Winograd, attorney at the American Immigration Council in Washington, D.C., said he understands why this might lead some people to be cautious.

“No one is going to want to be the guinea pig,” he said. “No one wants to bring a test case in a program like this that hasn’t been implemented before. “

Meanwhile, in the family’s home in Brooklyn, Cecilio’s parents said they hoped their son would be granted deferred action, despite blemishes on his record.  

Cecillio’s father, Daniel, 49, was the first to come to the U.S. He found a job at a bakery and after saving enough money, sent first for his wife and four children, including Cecilio. The youngest, a 10-year-old boy, was born in New York.

(Photo: The home Cecilio shares with his family in Brooklyn. Mirela Iverac/WNYC

Sitting next to a shrine to Virgin Mary, where red and pink roses were placed, Cecilio’s mother, Cecilia, 45, a petite woman with rosy cheeks, said her son used a fake social out of necessity to work and provide for himself and help out the rest of the family, including his four siblings.

This week, Cecilio is back to studying at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, where he hopes to graduate from next spring with an Associate Degree in liberal arts.

After applying for five jobs that day in the West Village, Cecilio received two calls from potential employers, but after he told them he didn’t have a social security number, he didn’t get the positions.

His parents are for the first time helping out with the expenses in the hopes he’ll be granted deferred action and eventually be able to apply for a job legally.

“That’s one of my dreams,” Cecilio said. “That I want to be legal in this country, even though I was not born in here.”


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Comments [6]


Is re-entering the US after being deported a FELONY when you are 13 years old? and if it was why didn't the US officials make the 13 year old felon pay for his actions Ali?

The Deferred Action will considerate individual cases, and if the person deserves to be here, they will.

Sep. 20 2012 05:31 PM
Kat from Illinois

Maria from USA asked where are the sob stories regarding numerous Americans who have suffered My sob story has nothing to do with harm inflicted upon me due to criminal actions of illegal immigrants, instead I will give you a sob story regarding an area of immigration few seldom ever hear of, and while I begrudge no one for desiring a better life for their children....recent developments reveal an unfair disparity between our governments attempts to provide humane relief at least temporarily for those who were brought to the US illegally by their parents and know of no other home verses a US Citizen or LPR desiring just as deeply to be able to live in the US with their loved one but conscientiously adhering to the requirements set forth in the Legal Immigration policies.

I've been married now for 10 years, I was unaware of the immigration policies until after we married, which caused a bit of a delay for us as I was working my way up in a new job and my income at the time did not meet the requirements for the proof of support. See those following the law must prove that their household income meets or exceeds 125% of the federal poverty level for all current members of the household plus the potential immigrant. This document also serves as a contract with the government guaranteeing that the potential immigrant will not use any means tested government benefits, and if they do the US Citizen must reimburse the government for those amounts. Additionally there are filing fee's to petition the government to allow your spouse to live with you, an I-130 costs $420.00, once approved the foreign spouse must submit to a physical examination, obtain and submit any and all police records over their entire lifetime, then wait until the various authorities complete a background check to ensure the safety of our society. Once allowed in the country you then file for an adjustment of status (green card) and work permit, filing fees for those are $1070.00 then you wait. On top of all of that, here is an additional disparity. For those adhering to the legal immigration policies, the pending immigrant is not allowed to work without a government issued work permit, doing so is grounds for the petition to be denied and the prospective immigrant deported and banned from re-entry for a number of years. So basically while our government is taking a humanitarian approach to the issue of those undocumented immigrants and allowing them to work without a work permit and contribute to their family's welfare. My husband has been and will continue to be unable to work until we have received his green card

I am a compassionate person, really I am but, I almost feel as if we are being penalized for following the laws...and they are being rewarded with greater rights and privileges for violating those same laws. This is just my one story, for a more in depth view take a visit to immigrate2us forums and visajourney forums to see what others are dealing with.

Aug. 31 2012 03:53 PM
RETUSAF from Las Vegas

No criminal record? Entered the country illegally, working in the country illegally, working with a SS number, deported, entering the country again (which is a felony).

How is he supporting himself here now? If he is working, another law broken. Deport this guy again, he's a felon.

Aug. 30 2012 10:49 PM
ERLZIVY from calif

My guess is that the lawyers and administrative officials are advising these illegal to disregard that s.s. question. I read an article recenttly which indicated an official tolddvised to not to report the $ that he makes working for his families business. Especially since he has been sending most of that $ home to other relatives who are saving to come to America when they can afford to pay somebody to smuggle them in. 80,000 + 30,000 + their family of 5+ that is only in NY.In my area 99% of jobs require employees to be bi-lingual. Most Americans are not bi-lingul. The illegals are.

Aug. 29 2012 05:18 PM
Maria from USA

Where are the sob stories about the numerous Americans who have suffered because of illegal immigration? The people who lost loved ones to illegal alien gang members or drunk drivers, the self-employed contractors and landscapers who lost their livelihoods because they couldn't compete with cheap labor working under the table and not paying taxes or workers' comp.

We never see any sob stories in the one-sided media about THEM. How come? Do Americans not COUNT with the one-sided media?

If you were an honest "reporter" you might want to go and talk to a few of them--they are not hard to find.

Aug. 29 2012 01:28 PM

Re-entering the US after being deported IS a FELONY, "light pink flag" or not.

Aug. 29 2012 07:43 AM

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