Requirements to be considered under new immigration policy:
■ Under age 16 when came to U.S.
■ Has already resided in U.S. continuously for at least five years already
■ In school, a high school graduate, obtained GED or honorably discharged
■ Not been convicted of a serious crime; doesn’t pose threat to national security
■ Not older than 30
Source: Department of Homeland Security
GOLDEN GATE — A new nationwide policy for young, undocumented immigrants seems tailor-made for Roberto Valdez.
He's weeks shy of turning 20, a high school graduate with no rap sheet who arrived with his parents from Mexico before he could walk.
Growing up, he kept it private that he lacked legal status.
"When I was going to graduate, that's when it really hit me more," said Valdez, who along with two dozen other people passed through a Legal Aid Service of Collier County information booth Saturday at the Golden Gate Community Center.
Although new procedures that accompany the immigration policy won't be announced until August, Legal Aid attorney Maureen Kelleher has encouraged illegal immigrants in Collier County to gather their paperwork now to expedite the process.
Saturday's event was the first of several information sessions planned in the coming months, Kelleher said, though dates and locations aren't yet determined.
Changes to the deferred action process were announced June 15 by the Department of Homeland Security, providing a temporary reprieve that can be renewed every two years, and for individuals like Valdez who are under the age of 30 and arrived illegally in the U.S. before the age of 16, the ability to work.
Larry Aguilar, a volunteer with the League of United Latin American Citizens, explained in Spanish to the parents, young children and teens gathered at the outdoor booth that they would be wise to gather documentation now that almost certainly will be necessary, such as birth and school records. The official procedure is expected to be made public in mid-August, coinciding with the back-to-school season, which could slow down records requests.
"There are a lot of opportunists in the community," Aguilar said of companies offering services to handle the new procedure. "One of the things we wanted to get out is there's help out there."
Valdez said he has his paperwork ready, Naples High School transcripts and all.
If his deferred action application is accepted, that will mean getting his driver license after years of being dependent on rides from family and friends. He could work legally, and have a chance at college.
For now, he makes ends meet helping out in a family member's construction business. For young illegal immigrants, not having the right paperwork is an inconvenience and a fear of being sent back to a country they don't know.
"If they're going to deport me, what am I going to do there?" Valdez said. "My life is here, man."