Immigration officials on Wednesday opened an application process that will allow thousands of young undocumented immigrants to apply for work permits and protection from deportation.
Also Wednesday, advocates for immigrants launched a campaign to inform the
young immigrants about the process and caution them about fraudulent immigration specialists.
Since President Barack Obama announced the program June 15, some pro-immigrant organizations have been cautious about celebrating, worrying about the confidentiality of the process and advising potential applicants to make sure they consult an immigration attorney or nonprofit organization before submitting paperwork.
But skepticism seemed to wane Wednesday after the details of the application process became public. Immigrant rights' advocates seemed optimistic about what the program could mean for the future of about a million young undocumented immigrants across the country.
Potential beneficiaries were hopeful, too. Alejandro Castro,
a 19-year-old electrical engineering student in El Paso who was brought to the U.S. when he was 4, said he downloaded the form late Tuesday evening and spent the whole night filling out forms and reading information on the program.
He has worked cleaning yards and selling vacuum cleaners, but the program would help him get a job in his career choice.
Julio Melgoza, a legal resident with three undocumented children, said the measure would give him peace of mind about his children's situation in the country while he arranges their legal residence.
Melgoza said it would also help his oldest son, Junior, pursue a sports-related scholarship and look for a job.
"The two older ones (children) have very high expectations. The older one (Junior) wants to be a detective, and the younger one wants to serve in the Navy," he said.
The new program will allow qualifying applicants to apply for deferred deportation for two years and for permits to work legally in the country.
It is directed to people who entered the country before the age of 16; are younger than 30; continuously lived in the United States for five years before the date of the memo; have never been convicted of a felony or a serious misdemeanor; and don't pose a threat to national security. Some people in removal proceedings may also be eligible, immigration specialists said.
They must also have graduated from high school, have a general educational development certificate or have served in the military.
Applicants will have to fill out and mail forms I-821D for consideration for deferred action, I-765 to apply for employment authorization, and I-765WS to establish economic need for employment. The cost of the application and the biometric background check is $465. The program allows for two years of deferred actions, and beneficiaries will be able to apply for extensions.
The forms are at the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services' website, uscis.gov.
According to estimates from the Washington D.C.-based Immigration Policy Center, or IPC, about 9,420 young people between the ages of 15 and 30 who could immediately benefit from the initiative live in Texas' 16th Congressional District -- most of El Paso.
An additional 6,210 young undocumented immigrants between the ages of 5 and 14 could benefit in the future if they graduate from high school, obtain their GEDs or serve in the U.S. armed forces.
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