FORT WORTH -- Young illegal immigrants who were raised in the United States began filling out applications Wednesday that would allow them to avoid deportation under the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals."I cannot explain to you what this would mean to me," said Sandra Tovar, 24, who has been cleaning houses even though she earned a degree from Texas A&M University."I could do everything I've ever dreamed of if this goes through."Immigration advocates in North Texas and across the United States were helping people process documents and fill out applications.Xergio Chacin, an immigration consultant with Catholic Charities Fort Worth, said more than 200 potential applicants sought the group's help Wednesday.He said they were as young as 15 and originated from places including Latin America, Asia and Africa.In June, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that qualified illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children could avoid deportation by getting work permits.Hundreds of thousands could receive temporary fixes through the program, which was huge news in the immigrant community -- especially among Spanish speakers."That takes them a little bit out of the shadows," said Gresia Martinez, a volunteer with the North Texas Dream Team in Dallas. "It's a breath of fresh air after being underwater for so long."Tovar needs to gather the necessary documents to apply for deferred action, she said, but first she wants to help others apply.Tovar, who graduated from Fort Worth's North Side High School, is among several young people working through the North Texas Dream Team to show immigrant communities how to apply for the program.Many volunteers have been mobilized through social media, and Tovar said the team plans to hold informational forums in Fort Worth."It's truly a once-in-a-lifetime chance," Tovar said."Once denied, there's no going back."On Tuesday, Homeland Security announced what documents the young immigrants will need to prove that they are eligible for the program, which has become a hot-button issue in the presidential race.Under the guidelines, proof of identity and eligibility could include a passport or birth certificate, school transcripts, medical and financial records, and military service records.The Migration Policy Institute and the Pew Hispanic Center say up to 1.7 million people could be eligible to stay in the U.S. and legally work under the new policy.This report includes material from The Associated Press.Diane Smith, 817-390-7675Twitter: @dianeasmith1
How it works
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will review requests and decide case by case. This does not provide a lawful status or a pathway to permanent residence or citizenship.
To be eligible, the illegal immigrants must prove that they came to the U.S. before age 16 and are 30 or younger. They also must have been living in the U.S. for at least five years and must be in school, must have graduated or must be in the military.
People whose cases are deferred will not be deported for two years, subject to renewal, and they can apply for permission to work in this country.
To find out more: www.uscis.gov/childhoodarrivals or 1-800-375-5283