Yonerky Santana has been busy lately. Like most college students, Keky, as her friends call her, is preparing for a new semester of classes, juggling limited finances with family and social life as she prepares for what she hopes will be a career in health services.
But Santana is also one of eight student leaders in the North Shore chapter of the Student Immigrant Movement who are helping other immigrant students take what they see as an important step: applying for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy that went into effect Aug. 15.
The two-year policy halts deportation for young people who came to this country before their 16th birthday, lived here five consecutive years, have a high school diploma or equivalent, and are currently under age 30. It also allows them to obtain passports and work permits, necessary provisions for today’s college students.
While it’s not a law or a path to U.S. citizenship, it does provide breathing room for the hundreds of immigrants on the North Shore attending college without permanent residency status.
Born in the Dominican Republic and now a second-year student at North Shore Community College, Santana and other SIM leaders have been partnering with various nonprofit agencies to offer free information and application clinics throughout the Boston area. They’re planning to host one at the community college in Lynn on Sept. 21.
Santana, who is 23 and lives in Lynn, was featured on the “We are Americans” cover of Time magazine in June, along with 30 other young immigrants who have grown up in the U.S. but who are not formally recognized as American residents because their parents entered the country without proper documentation. She was on the bus home from the Time photo shoot in New York City when a friend called her with the news: The new policy would go into effect Aug. 15.