SAN ANTONIO -- People were already lined up outside the Mexican Consulate in San Antonio early Wednesday to take advantage of the Obama Administration's Deferred Action Program.
While US Citizenship and Immigration Services says this is not a path to citizenship, more than one million young undocumented immigrants across the country will temporarily be able to apply for a two-year work permit. That is, if they meet qualifications, some of which include being brought to the country illegally before they were 16 years old.
Many youngsters are anxious to apply for college. Genesis Gonzalez tells News 4 WOAI she is feeling relieved she can apply for deferred action to go to work and apply for college. My dream is to become a nurse because I like to help people,” she said.
Immigration attorney Cindy Medina is helping Genesis and other youngsters review their paperwork to get it done correctly. Medina says there are still a lot of unanswered questions for those who apply for college.
Medina said, “We don't know if it will make them eligible for scholarships or give them in state tuition and there are still a lot of issues and questions that haven't been addressed.”
If you prove you graduated from college or any programs you may be able to file for an extension beyond the 2 years. The rules for that extension have not been outlined just yet.
Undocumented immigrants will have to pay $465 and show proof of eligibility to be approved.
Homeland Security on Tuesday announced details of which documents immigrants in the US without documentation will need to prove that they are eligible for the program. That proof can include passports, school transcripts and medical or financial records. Illegal immigrants can begin to apply Wednesday.
You may request consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals if you:
- Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
- Came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday;
- Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
- Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
- Entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or your lawful immigration status expired as of June 15, 2012;
- Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
- Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
You can call 1-800-375-5283 with questions or to request more information on the deferred action for childhood arrivals process In-depth information on the entire precess is available online at www.uscis.gov/childhoodarrivals
A decision on each application could take several months, and immigrants have been warned not to leave the country while their application is pending. If they are allowed to stay in the United States and want to travel internationally, they will need to apply for permission to come back into the country, a request that would cost $360 more.
Critics of the program have called the policy backdoor amnesty and said they worry about fraud.
Hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants potentially could benefit from the program, which President Barack Obama announced in June. The program is beginning just months before what promises to be a tight contest for the White House in which the Hispanic vote may play an important role.
The President has come under fire from Hispanic voters and others who say he hasn't fulfilled a previous campaign promise to overhaul the nation's immigration laws. The policy change could stop deportations for more than 1 million youngundocumented immigrants who would have qualified for the failed DREAM Act, formally the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act, which President Obama has supported in the past.
Republican lawmakers have accused Obama of circumventing Congress with the new program in an effort to boost his political standing and of favoring undocumented immigrants over unemployed U.S. citizens.
Some, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, have called the policy backdoor amnesty and said they worry about fraud.
"While potentially millions of illegal immigrants will be permitted to compete with American workers for scarce jobs, there seems to be little if any mechanism in place for vetting fraudulent applications and documentation submitted by illegal immigrants," Smith said Tuesday.
At the Honduran Consulate on Tuesday, a line of people wrapped around the building before it was open for business, and the office was crowded for much of the day.
Evelyn Medina, 23, got in line at about 6:30 a.m., and she wasn't alone. With her passport in hand, Medina was all smiles as she walked out of the building just before 2 p.m., saying "Finally" as she clutched the document.
Medina, a Maryland college student studying social work, said she expected to be ready to apply Wednesday. If she is allowed to stay in the U.S. and work, she hopes eventually to earn a master's degree.
Alejandro Mayorkas, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said being approved to avoid deportation "does not provide lawful status or a path to citizenship."
Advocacy groups across the country are planning events starting this week to help immigrants fill out their applications and get all their paperwork in order.
DHS officials have said repeatedly they don't have an estimate of how many people may apply. In an internal document outlining the program's implementation, officials estimated 1.04 million people would apply in the first year and about 890,000 would be eligible.
The document, obtained by The Associated Press, estimated that the program could cost between $467.7 million and $585.4 million. The department anticipated collecting about $484.2 million in fees.
Learn more about the We Own The Dream movement by clicking here