Thursday April 11, 2013
Erick Constantino, featured in an Elkhart Truth series last February about school- and college-aged undocumented immigrants in Elkhart County , is now “lawfully present” in the United States.
Still, his dream of joining the U.S. Marines remains out of reach.
The 19-year-old 2012 Elkhart Memorial High School grad, originally from Mexico, came to the United States with his parents in 1997 or 1998, when he was three or four. He didn’t have proper papers and lived in the shadows as an undocumented immigrant.
Then President Obama last year announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative (look here), geared to younger undocumented immigrants brought here as children by their parents. The program (here’s more info) offers a means for eligible applicants to gain two-year renewable work permits, Social Security cards and standing as being “lawfully present” in the country.
Constantino applied under the program late last year and received word just last week that his application had been approved. He now has a work permit and is awaiting his Social Security card.
“I was just excited, you know,” he said Thursday. “I just couldn’t believe it finally came in and my application was accepted.”
That said, his dream of joining the U.S. Marines remains on hold. A few days after getting word on his application, he contacted a recruiter. To join, he’d have to be a legal permanent resident, a status Constantino currently may not attain, per U.S. immigration law.
“I felt like my heart was broke when the recruiter told me that,” said Constantino. “They were kind of bummed out too. They kind of hated to see me let down…”
Instead, he’s looking into attending community college next fall with an eye to studying criminal justice and going into law enforcement. More immediately, with his new work papers, he hopes to get a job, maybe something in retail.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals contains no pathway to formal U.S. residency or citizenship. Likewise, having been implemented by President Obama, it could be reversed by another president.
Meanwhile, debate continues in the U.S. Congress for more far-reaching reform to the nation’s immigration system, in part to deal with the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.
Tim Vandenack is a reporter at the Elkhart Truth newspaper in Elkhart, Ind., www.etruth.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-296-5884. Visit him/subscribe to him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack.