Young immigrants can avoid deportation under new US program
MIAMI, (Reuters) – Marlon Morraz, 19, an undocumented immigrant from Nicaragua, wasted no time to sign up for temporary legal status in the United States under the Obama administration’s relaxed deportation rules that took effect yesterday.
“Now is my chance,” he said after picking up an application form at an immigration workshop hosted by a Miami congressman. “I’m pretty elated. Now I have a future.”
Morraz, who has been living under the radar since he came to the country when he was 11, is among hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants expected to file applications with the Department of Homeland Security under the new rules.
The “deferred action for childhood arrivals” permits shield them from deportation for at least two years as long as they were younger than 16 when they came to the United States, have lived in the country since June 15, 2007, have not been convicted of a felony, and are not older than 30.
Lines of eager, young undocumented students formed outside immigration offices in states with big immigrant populations such as California and Texas on Wednesday.
As many as 1.7 million people could qualify for the temporary program, which enables them to apply for work permits, Social Security cards and driver’s licenses, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
President Barack Obama, whose administration has aggressively deported illegal immigrants with criminal backgrounds, announced in June that he was moving to help this group of youths – many of them Hispanic – who have become increasingly vocal in calling for help.
Many Republicans blasted the move as the Democratic president’s grab for Hispanic votes ahead of the Nov. 6 presidential election, with an eye on battleground states such as Florida, Nevada and Colorado with big immigrant populations.
Morraz, who graduated from high school last year with advanced credits, had to turn down university opportunities at Boston College and the University of Chicago, because his lack of status made him ineligible for financial assistance.
“I started to stop caring about education. I thought it was a waste of time, it just fills your head with dreams for nothing,” he said.
Now he has enrolled at a community college to study international relations, and has revived his university dreams with hopes one day of becoming a diplomat.