Program assists gaySF immigrant couple
by Matthew S. Bajko
For the first time in years, Gustavo Cerritos and Edgar Cruz feel a sense of freedom.
Cerritos, 23, is dreaming of the day when he will no longer have to clean houses to make a living. Cruz, 29, is looking forward to opening a bank account and flying on a plane again.
The San Francisco couple is also studying to take their driver's license exam for the first time.
Up until recently many of their ambitions had been on hold due to the fact both came to the United States illegally as children. Lacking proper identification cards, Cerritos and Cruz were unable to seek out loans to attend college or find work that wasn't under the table.
Then in 2012 they found hope in the federal program known as deferred action for childhood arrivals. Undocumented immigrants who were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012 and came to the U.S. prior to their 16th birthday can apply.
Backed by the Obama administration, the program is intended to provide the 1.7 million immigrant youth, known as Dreamers, who qualify a way to attend college or be legally employed despite not having U.S. citizenship.
About 16 months ago Cerritos and Cruz began the application process for the program, so that once granted deferred action, they would not have to worry about being deported for two years as long as they do not violate any laws.
Yet paperwork snafus prolonged their application period. In Cerritos's case, he had to track down the required documents he needed in Honduras. He applied in November and received word he had been approved in early February.
A lawyer working with Cruz bungled sending in his paperwork, so he had to reapply. He resubmitted his application in December and received word in early March he had been approved.
"Tears just flew," he recalled.
Last week Cruz was at the Social Security Administration office on Valencia Street in the Mission applying for an identification number so he could apply for work.
They remain hopeful that Congress will adopt permanent immigration reform allowing them to seek citizenship. But in the meantime, "just being able to work is great," said Cruz. "Having a Social Security number is like applying for membership somewhere we couldn't get in before."
He is looking at taking business classes and possibly attending college in Los Angeles.
"It is still an idea. There are so many possibilities now," said Cruz.
More immediately, he hopes to find work as his two sons, ages 8 and 6, that he fathered while married to a woman are expected to move in with him next year at the start of the 2015 school year. Following their visit with him this summer, Cruz plans to fly with them back to Florida as he will be able to use his driver's license to board the plane.
Cerritos is already taking classes at City College in hopes of transferring to San Francisco State University.
"I don't know my major yet. I want to do something with communications I think," he said.
They will both need to re-apply to the deferred action program four months prior to when their first two years is set to expire.