Eleazar Velazquez got a text message from his mother during a Dream Act group meeting before the University of Oklahoma released classes for Thanksgiving.
"I got a letter saying to go in Dec. 10 for my biometrics," he announced.
Everyone understood that jargon and gave him hugs and high-fives.
With a shaky voice and a smile spanning his face, the 22-year-old undocumented immigrant said that means he may get a chance to stay in the U.S., his home since age 3.
"That means I'm almost at the end -- fingerprints and my photo for a worker's permit," he said. "After that, I'm official."Velazquez, an architecture student at OU, is among at least 10,000 immigrants in Oklahoma expected to qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. That gives a two-year reprieve from deportation to youths such as Velazquez who were brought to this country by their parents as children.
It is not a pathway to citizenship or residency.
It is for this reason Velazquez and his fellow Dream Act group members, called Dreamers, will be holding a vigil at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the south oval of the OU campus. It is a first-of-its-kind event for Oklahoma -- one where young illegal immigrants will publicly acknowledge their status, their struggles and their determination to become Americans.
The group includes students studying everything from the arts to business; fraternity members; pageant contestants; and students in a variety of activities.
"I'm undocumented by circumstance, Mexican in origin and American in my future," Velazquez said. "That's how I define myself. I'm definitely not 'an illegal.' I did not choose how I came here."
Dream Act nonprofit groups, named for the decade-old pending legislation in Congress, have popped up to push for passage of immigration laws to help undocumented youths. Oklahoma has three groups -- in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Norman -- with 60 members.
The deferred action directive mirrors many of the Dream Act points but is only temporary, leaving youths in a limbo-type status.
About 1.76 million youths nationally are expected to be eligible, and about 300,000 have applied since mid-August, according to the Office of Homeland Security.
Velazquez said he is coming forward with his story to let others know they are not alone.
"You go through struggles the typical American youth doesn't go through," he said. "There is a network here. You can't do it without support."
Velazquez crossed the border illegally as a 3-year-old, remembering his parents coaching him to tell guards that the stranger with him was a grandfather.
Growing up in the U.S., he moved frequently as his parents sought manual labor jobs. They lived in poverty, in some places without running water or electricity.
Settling in Oklahoma in 1996, he went to Millwood High School as his father worked at nearby Remington Park.
At one point, the family lived in dormitories connected to the horse stalls.
"I wasn't allowed to go anywhere," he said. "I couldn't get a driver's license or even go to an R-rated movie or out at night because they were afraid of something happening to me. They said not to go out and don't tell anyone about my status."
School is a passion, and it was frustrating planning a future without a way to gain legal residency, he said.
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