After 25 years, Daniela Alulema might be able to finally step out of the shadows.
Alulema, 25, is a Ridgewood undocumented immigrant, one of tens of thousands hoping to stay in New York City legally after President Barack Obama announced this summer that people like her could apply for a deportation reprieve.
The city estimates that as many as 60,000 residents could be eligible, many who are high school or college students.
The president’s directive means that for the first time, immigrants that came here illegally as children might be able to apply to stay, legally.
People that can prove, among other things, they arrived before age 16 and were here June 15, the day Obama signed the order, may get a work permit and a two-year reprieve from the threat of deportation.
Tuesday, the City Council will discuss whether people applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, are getting enough local help.
The city promised to provide documents immigrants might need, like Department of Education school or immunization records to prove children’s presence.
“Despite that, some of the things we’ve heard from the applicants and others is that they still face a lot of obstacles,” said Councilman Daniel Dromm, who heads the Council’s Immigration Committee.
Dromm added, “Many of them are closeted, so to speak, about their status … Many don’t know they could even ask for help.”
Visiting a high school, he said, he asked teens if they had heard about DACA. Many hadn’t.
“They perked up in the classroom and asked me a number of questions,” he said.
About 250 people attended DACA workshops at the undocumented youth-led New York State Youth Leadership Council, where Alulema is a member. Another will be Dec. 11.
“This is exactly the kind of opportunity I’ve been waiting for,” Alulema said.
Alulema filed her paperwork in September, collecting school records from Baruch College and documents from her doctor. A paycheck and a Foursquare restaurant check-in proved she was here June 15, she said.
“I pretty much had to turn my house upside down,” she said. Now, she waits. A friend recently got her approval in the mail, cause for celebration.
“A work permit would be a nice Christmas gift for all of us,” Alulema said.
What do immigrants have to prove?
For many, the order means that a life lived while undocumented suddenly requires getting together documents. Among other things, people who can apply must prove they were younger than 31 as of June 15, arrived before age 16 and have lived in the U.S. continuously since June 15, 2007.
They also must prove they have not been convicted of a felony. The process is not yet for, the mayor’s office cautions, legal status or a path to legalization.
For Alulema, even filing was a leap of faith.
Her parents are not eligible to apply, she said, and she filed documents with addresses and family names.
“We made the decision as a family, and I think in order to get some kind of reward you have to take a risk, and we did that,” she said.