Wednesday is the day many young undocumented immigrants have been waiting for: They can finally fill out forms that will allow them to stay in the country to work or continue their educations legally for the next two years.
The program is called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and was signed by President Obama under executive order earlier this summer.
The Pew Hispanic Research Center estimates the program will directly impact an estimated 1.7 million young people in the U.S.
Diana Luna, 18, is one of them.
“I go to an American school, I recite the American Pledge of Allegiance every morning,” Luna said. “So it’s difficult to see that some opportunities available to other students aren’t available to students like myself.”
Luna came to the U.S. with her parents when she was 5 years old. She says this country is the only home she’s ever known, and she hopes to contribute to her community by going to college this fall. But to be accepted, she had to apply as an international student.
“It’s a difficult challenge for students to talk about it,” said Luna, “but I’ve realized the only way to change minds and transform hearts is to talk about it.”
To apply for the Deferred Action program, applicants must be between the ages of 15 and 30, have come to the U.S. when they were younger than 16, and have been in the U.S. five years before June 2012. They must also be enrolled in or completed high school or have served in the military. Applicants must also have no criminal history. However, some misdemeanors may not discount applicants.
While the reward is one many undocumented immigrants dream of, this program does come with its own risks. Applicants must admit they’re in the U.S. illegally and they have only one shot to be approved.
“There is not an appeals process offered here like Immigration Services has offered in the past,” said immigration attorney, Oscar Garcia.
Garcia says that means if you’re application is rejected, you could face deportation.
“There’s a risk they might be put in removal proceedings and have to appear before an immigration judge to defend themselves,” Garcia said.
Diana Luna says for the hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants like her who meet the required criteria, it’s a risk worth taking.
“I think it would be a waste of talent to not let them continue and pursue their dreams,” she said.
There is a $465 application fee to apply. To download the necessary forms visit www.uscis.gov.