Illegal Immigrant Is Second Here to Get Reprieve From Deportation

Brady McCombs, Arizona Daily Star (Tucson), September 24, 2010

A Tucson man scheduled for deportation today will be able to stay long enough to see his daughter graduate from high school after receiving a one-year federal deferral.

Alfonso Morales-Macias, a 40-year-old father of two who has has lived illegally in the U.S. for 20 years, learned Wednesday night that he won’t be deported to Mexico, said Phoenix attorney Mel Rodis, who led a campaign to help him.

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Morales-Macias is the second illegal immigrant living in Tucson who has been granted a once-rare deferral from deportation in the last two months. In early August, Marlen Moreno Peralta, a 28-year-old mother of two, was granted one-year deferred action on deportation orders.

Both Tucsonans appear to be among a growing contingent of illegal immigrants who are being allowed to stay in the U.S. because they were either brought here as children, like Moreno, or who have been living here since 1996, like Morales-Macias.

A leaked internal memo from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that surfaced during the summer reveals a suggestion to provide relief to two groups of illegal immigrants facing deportation: people brought here as children who would qualify for the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act, and people who have been living here continuously since 1996. The year is a move that would bump up the qualifying date from Jan. 1, 1972, in a section of immigration law.

“Rather than making deferred action widely available to hundreds of thousands and as a non-legislative version of ‘amnesty,’ USCIS could tailor the use of this discretionary option for particular groups,” the memo said.

Morales-Macias came to the U.S. more than two decades ago on a tourist visa and overstayed. He would fit into the second category for deferral. Moreno came to the U.S. illegally with her parents when she was 13 years old. She’d qualify under the DREAM Act, which was rejected this week by the Senate. Moreno was facing deportation stemming from a identity-theft case arrest at a north-side Panda Express restaurant in 2008.

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The agency considers several factors when deciding whom it grants deferred status to, including criminal history, immigration history and equities in the U.S., he said. The deferred action doesn’t give Morales-Macias legal status, but it gives him more time to “normalize his status,” Picard said.

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The action, which will allow Morales-Macias to work legally, can be renewed for an additional year. But he still faces an uncertain future because his wife does not have legal status either, meaning he has no avenue to apply for legal residence.

“We’re hoping there will be comprehensive immigration reform,” Rodis said.

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“Someone who has been here for 20 years, a taxpayer, a hard worker, a homeowner, deserves to be here,” Rodis said. “Deporting him would have been a miscarriage of justice.”

Morales-Macias’ troubles began in September 2007, when he was arrested by immigration agents while working for a contracted janitorial service at a Tucson Target store, Rodis said. {snip}

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It’s possible that the Obama administration is handpicking sympathetic people such as Moreno and Morales-Macias to grant deferral to gain favor with immigrant advocates while avoiding alienating mainstream voters who favor more immigration enforcement, said Steve Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington-based organization that advocates for slowing immigration.

“It’s one guy; he’s pretty sympathetic; nobody notices that much,” Camarota said. “Whereas for the advocacy group that is pushing for it, and for this one guy, it means a lot.”

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This section from a leaked memo from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, titled “Administrative Alternatives to Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” might explain why Alfonso Morales-Macias was granted a deferral from deportation:

“While it is theoretically possible to grant deferred action to an unrestricted number of unlawfully present individuals, doing so would likely be controversial, not to mention expensive. Presently no specific application form or fee is required to request or receive deferred action. Were USCIS to increase significantly the use of deferred action, the agency would either require a separate appropriation or independent funding stream. Alternatively, USCIS could design and seek expedited approval of a dedicated deferred action form and require a filing fee.

“Rather than making deferred action widely available to hundreds of thousands and as a non-legislative version of ‘amnesty,’ USCIS could tailor the use of this discretionary option for particular groups such as individuals who would be eligible for relief under the DREAM Act (an estimated 50,000), or under Section 249 of the Act (Registry), who have resided in the U.S. since 1996 (or as of a different date designed to move forward the Registry provision now limited to entries before January 1, 1972).”

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