Palos Hills immigrant hopeful on Obama’s new deportation policy
By Susan DeMar Lafferty email@example.com June 15, 2012 11:48PM
FILE - This April 10, 2012 file photo shows Alaa Mukahhal in Chicago. Mukahhal, born in Kuwait of Palestinian parents, has been in this country illegally since she was seven. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, a longtime champion of opening a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants, said Friday, June 15, 2012, that the Obama administration's decision to stop many deportations offers thousands of a people like Mukahhal, a future in America. Appearing with Durbin, Mukahhal said she hoped the change would halt her own deportation proceedings. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
Updated: July 18, 2012 6:37AM
Alaa Mukahhal is cautiously optimistic about President Barack Obama’s announcement that his administration would stop deporting law-abiding, but illegal, immigrant youths.
Facing a deportation hearing in September, the 25-year-old Palos Hills resident only hopes to see some action quickly.
“My hopes have been raised, but it only works if it is actually implemented,” she said.
According to the criteria, Mukahhal and her younger brother would qualify. They both came into the country before they were 16 years old, and they are currently under 30. They graduated high school, have no criminal record and have lived in this country for five continuous years.
Other undocumented youth also are eligible if they served in the military.
But Mukahhal said she will have to apply and it will be up to the discretion of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to decide who stays on a case-by-case basis.
“Nothing is guaranteed,” she said.
The requirements create a “narrow window” of opportunity, she said, but it is a “step in the right direction.”
Mukahhal said she came to Chicago from Jordan when she was 6 and her brother was 2, and “grew up in the shadows.”
Being an undocumented youth was “definitely a stigma,” she said. “There was shame and fear attached to it. You did not dare tell anyone. It was a humiliating way to live.”
She graduated from a private high school and earned a degree in architecture from the University of Illinois in Champaign.
But because she did not have a Social Security number she could not get a job after college.
“That was a huge impediment,” she said. But she shared her story and got involved with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.
Ironically, Mukahhal now works as a citizenship coordinator for National Partnership for New Americans, helping others to become citizens.
Her father also is trying to become a citizen.
She said she will keep a close eye on how this develops and will “hold the administration accountable.”