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Undocumented Youth To Start Applying For 'Dreamer' Immigration Waiver

Meghan Walker
08/16/2012

Wednesday, the US Government started accepting applications for a program that gives temporary legal protection to some undocumented immigrants who came here as children. Immigration groups, activists and applicants gathered at Seattle Central Community College, to celebrate the reform, as KUOW's Meghan Walker reports.

TRANSCRIPT

Just outside Seattle Central's campus, about a hundred people were celebrating a big step in immigration policy.

Crowd Chanting: "Up with education, down with deportation!"

Today is the first day for children of immigrants, known as Dreamers, to apply for deferred action. That will allow qualified young people to apply for immigration status that would give them two years of legal protection and a work permit. After two years, they can then renew. Applicants must meet several conditions, like they were brought here before age 16, they go to school and have a clean record.

Immigration reform group One America organized the event, which featured immigration lawyers and community representatives to talk about the impact of the policy. Matt Adams is with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. He says deferred action is the first step to getting young immigrants permanent legal status.

Adams: "It gets you in the process. And the hope is once this process is started, then they're going to formalize through Congress a transition to lawful permanent residence. So you're already in the door. In general what we've seen is once you have some type of status, whether it's a work permit or deferred action, it's then more difficult for the government to take that away. So hopefully this is the first step in the path to getting lawful permanent residence."

The rally brought a large group of Dreamers and their parents. Many are already applying for the program. Xochitl Rojas is 23. She came from Mexico with her family when she was just 3. Rojas brought her 3–year–old American–born son to the rally.

Rojas: "We're American. We don't have the papers, but we're American. We love American music, the food, the everything, the culture. We are part of America. It's great to finally see the steps coming to get closer to that. To actually being part of the society, a working member of the society. Helping the community, being active and not being at home, scared."

For people like Rojas, deferred action will mean she can pursue her dream to become a nurse.

But for some, deferred action means a free pass to those who don't deserve it. Ira Mehlman is with the Federation for American Immigration Reform, known as FAIR.

Mehlman: "The rules are extremely loose. And they're just an invitation to fraud, they're an invitation not just to people who want to come here for the obvious reason of improving their standard of living, but also people who might want to come here to do all sorts of things."

The application process for deferred action is expected to take six to 10 months. One America is offering informational forums around the state throughout August. They are also now offering free legal clinics for applicants.

For KUOW News, I'm Meghan Walker.

© Copyright 2012, KUOW

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