The Department of Homeland Security starts accepting applications for deferred action from DREAM Act-eligible young adults on Wednesday. Under a new directive President Obama announced in June, undocumented immigrants between 15 and 30 years of age who have lived in the U.S. continuously for at least five years, have not been convicted of a felony or “significant” misdemeanor, and have graduated from high school, earned a GED, or served in the military can apply for a two-year work authorization that will let them live in the U.S. without fear of deportation.
As many as 1.7 million DREAMers could benefit from this new policy. Maria Gomez, a UCLA graduate who came to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 8, is one of those beneficiaries. Her story — about being the first in her family to graduate from college and putting herself through graduate school — is one of dozens that Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) has highlighted on the Senate floor to emphasize the need for the DREAM Act to help undocumented young adults who came to the U.S. as children. Many of them are now eligible for deferred action.
More than 5,000 people gathered in Chicago’s Navy Pier for a workshop about filling out the paperwork to apply for work authorization. And a day before the deferred action policy began, people lined up to get their records in order at Honduran Consulate’s office:
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.
There are undocumented immigrants in every state who are eligible for deferred action — most of whom live in California, Texas, or Illinois. Among the prospective beneficiaries who are over 15 years of age, almost 60 percent are already working in the U.S. As a result of Obama’s policy, this population can work legally and improve their employment conditions and wages.