Friday, August 31, 2012

Farmworker Children May Not Qualify for DREAMer Deferred Action

Grace Meng writes for USA Today:

Any American who has turned on the news lately could watch many young immigrants taking a first step toward the American dream. The Department of Homeland Security began taking applications on Aug. 15 for "deferred action for childhood arrivals," temporary relief from deportation for unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the USA as children.

But what you did not see in the stories of thousands lining up in Chicago or packing churches in New York were the many children who should benefit but won't. Deferred action is intended for children who are "American" in everything but legal status, but the program's idea of "American" is unlikely to include the children who picked the oranges for your juice or the tomatoes on your hamburgers.

It is common knowledge that the U.S. agricultural industry depends on immigrant labor. What is less well-known is that hundreds of thousands of children, often starting full-time at age 11 or 12, are working in the fields. Under federal law, children can legally work in agriculture at younger ages, for longer hours and under more hazardous conditions than other working children. Many of them are U.S. citizens, but there are also plenty of unauthorized migrant children.

We learned, for example, of Ingrid Perez, a 17-year-old migrant farmworker who is unlikely to benefit from deferred action. To be eligible, applicants must be in school, have graduated from high school or have a GED, or be an honorably discharged veteran. But Ingrid, an honor roll student, dropped out of school to work. Children who move with their parents from state to state with planting and harvest change schools, on average, three times a year. They are also often under financial pressure to help support their families. As a result, child farmworkers drop out at four times the national average. Read more...

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