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Dundee-Crown students  organize information session about deferred action process

Dundee-Crown High School seniors Javier CerqueEast Dundee Karen ArreolCarpentersville Nancy Conejo Carpentersville Evelyn RiverCarpentersville all pour Gatorade as refreshments for

Dundee-Crown High School seniors Javier Cerquea of East Dundee, Karen Arreola of Carpentersville, Nancy Conejo of Carpentersville and Evelyn Rivera of Carpentersville all pour Gatorade as refreshments for community members attending the information sessions about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and about being the first in your family to go to college they helped organize at the school.

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Updated: November 11, 2012 6:06AM

CARPENTERSVILLE — Evelyn Rivera and Nancy Conejo both are 17 years old. Both live in Carpentersville. Both are seniors at Dundee-Crown High School, where both are part of the AVID program, which encourages students to take advanced classes, complete service hours and go on to college.

Both plan to go to college because of that program, Conejo said, although she won’t be able to apply for financial assistance.

That’s because while Rivera was born in the United States, Conejo was born in Mexico. Her older sister had been born in the U.S., and her family returned here when she was 3, she said.

“It frustrates me to see we’re the same student, we have the same goals and dreams, and we both can’t achieve that,” Rivera said.

That’s why AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) students organized an information session about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The event took place Thursday night in the auditorium at Dundee-Crown High School, 1500 Kings Road.

About 50 people attended that question-and-answer session, led in both English and Spanish by Mireya Luna, immigrant services coordinator at Family Focus Aurora. It did not include workshops to fill out applications for the action like other sessions Family Focus has hosted, but Dundee-Crown AVID counselor Ann Dicosola said the school has not ruled out such a workshop in the future.

“We saw so many of our peers go through this,” said senior Karen Arreola, 17, of Carpentersville.

“You feel a little impotent. There’s nothing you can do. But then this opportunity came up.”

New policy

DACA is a U.S. Department of Homeland Security policy announced in June by President Barack Obama that allows young, undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. before the age of 16 to apply for a temporary deferred action on any potential immigration proceedings.

It’s essentially “turning yourself in,” Luna said, but the benefits include the ability for those young people to apply for work permits, Social Security cards and driver’s licenses.

That likely impacts hundreds of students and recent alumni at Dundee-Crown, based on the number of school transcripts requested from the school. Those transcripts can be used as proof students applying for the action came to the U.S. before they turned 16 and have lived continuously in the country since June 15, 2007, which are requirements of DACA.

The school has processed 98 requests for those transcripts since Aug. 20, according to Kristie Benedik in the registrar department at Dundee-Crown. It still has 105 more to process, she said.

It’s currently a three- or four-week wait for that information, according to Dundee-Crown Principal Lynn McCarthy.

That’s partly because of the number of requests, and partly because registering students who are still moving into school boundaries over a month into the school year has to be the school’s first priority, McCarthy said. It also is time-consuming to gather not just high school records but also elementary and middle school records from within Community Unit School District 300, Benedik said.

The school since has gotten help from the District 300 Central Office to process that information, McCarthy said.

Doors opening

Among those applying for deferred action at Dundee-Crown are Conejo, who already in is the process and is “looking forward to having the same rights as my sister”; and Paola Bravo, 17, of Carpentersville, who said she planned to do that over the weekend.

Bravo also was born in Mexico, although she said she remembers “nothing” about the country. She was brought to the U.S. when she was 2, she said. She cried when she learned about DACA, she said.

“Doors have opened, and they are opening for us. Dreams do come true,” she said.

AVID students also had organized a panel at the same time Thursday night for students and parents of students who are the first in their families who plan to go on to college. That panel featured students from Elgin Community College, Aurora University and Northern Illinois University, some of whom had been in the first graduating class from the AVID program last year.

Whether students ultimately apply for or receive deferred action, Luna said, “Your education is your best documentation.”

“The only way we’re going to get elected officials to start respecting us is if we have an education. Right now, we’re the low-wage workers. We’re mopping floors. We’re cutting lawns. The only way to break that cycle is to get an education.”

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