Young Immigrants Can Avoid Deportation Under New U.S. Program

Published August 15, 2012

| Reuters

The U.S. government began accepting applications on Wednesday from young illegal immigrants seeking temporary legal status under relaxed deportation rules announced by the Obama administration in June.

Thousands of illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States as children are expected to seek a deferred action permit that would shield them from deportation for at least two years as part of the Department of Homeland Security's new program.

Illegal immigrants are eligible to apply for such relief if they, among other criteria, were younger than 16 when they came to the United States, have not been convicted of a felony and are not currently older than 30.

As many as 1.7 million people could qualify for the program, which also allows them to apply for renewable work permits, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

The federal policy change has been warmly received by Latino leaders but has proven unpopular among Republicans, who have decried it as "backdoor amnesty."

Advocates are urging young immigrants to have their applications reviewed by an attorney before filing them.

"Mistakes or misunderstandings could lead to denial of deferred action and losing the $465 fee or worse - deportation," said Cheryl Little, director of Americans for Immigrant Justice. "This is a marathon, not a sprint."

San Antonio resident Benita Veliz, 27, said she planned to be at the front of the line on Wednesday. She arrived in the United States from her native Mexico with her illegal immigrant parents when she was 8.

Since then, she said she has completed high school and college but has been unable to get a driver's license or travel.

"This will allow me to do the things I've always wanted to do and live out the American dream like I've always wanted," she said.

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