Young people who hope to avoid deportation are counting the days until they can apply for President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
The application will be available August 15 but many are preparing now.
“I came with my mom as a baby,” said Mayela Torres, 22. She lined up to pick up an information form at the Diocesan Immigrant and Refugee Services office in El Paso.
The new program will give eligible undocumented youth the chance to temporarily avoid deportation. Many are college students like Torres.
“I want to be a nurse so for something like this to happen is really good,” said Torres.
President Obama announced the program on June 15Th. Since then students and parents have packed a weekly workshop hosted by Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services to learn about the application process.
To qualify applicants have to prove they arrived in the U.S. before they were 16, have lived in this country continuously for at least five years, enrolled or graduated from high school or served in the military. They also must not have a felony conviction or other major problems with the law.
The age limit is 30 years old. More than a million young people could be eligible.
I’ve been here since I was five,” said Oscar Moreno, 23. The program allows qualified students who were brought to the U.S. to temporarily stay in the country.
“I thought it was a good political maneuver by President Obama,” said Moreno. “But if he’s helping me why not? Thank you.”
Several efforts to pass the “Dream Act” granting undocumented students legal status have failed in Congress. Many students live in limbo because they are not authorized to work.
“Now, that I’m in college I have doubts about whether I keep going because I don’t have money to pay for university, said Moreno, a mechanical engineering major at the University of Texas El Paso.
Under the program, he and other students can also apply for two year work permits.
There are many unanswered questions including what happens to the program if President Obama does not win re-election and Mitt Romney takes office.
“Certainly if a new administration comes in, there may be very drastic changes to the program,” said Iliana Holguin, Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services. “And the program may come to an end completely. We just don’t know.”
It’s a risk many are willing to take after a lifetime of uncertainly as they wait for what they really want.
“For the dream act to finally go through, said Moreno. “That’s what I hope for.”