On Wednesday, as many as 800,000 young, undocumented immigrants will have the opportunity to apply to stay in the United States for at least two years.
It's a federal policy called “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals." Critics of the Obama administration are calling it "Backdoor Amnesty."
At a Q-and-A session in West Austin Tuesday, immigration experts asked last minute questions to better understand the new policy.
"As it is, it is not a step towards citizenship. It's not even a path to U.S. permanent residency," immigration attorney Mehron Azarmehr said. “All it is an opportunity to get a work permit, possibly apply for a two-year work permit to stay in U.S. lawfully and work."
Born in Mexico City, Diana Morales is a sophomore at the University of Texas and lives in the U.S. illegally. Locally, as many as 30,000 young people just like her could line up to fill out the Deferred Action application.
"Just having that application because it's true, it's finally a reality," she said.
The policy applies to those under 31 years of age who entered the country before the age of 16. Applicants have to prove they're functioning members of society, without a criminal record.
Alejandro Mayorkas, Director of U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services, said people who qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program can download the application, including forms needed to get a work permit, from the agency's website, beginning Tuesday. They can start submitting applications on Wednesday.
Immigrants will have to pay a $465 fee and submit proof of their eligibility. Proof can include school transcripts, medical and financial records as well as military service records
In the meantime, it's unknown how many undocumented immigrants will actually request to stay in the country.
Click here for the full requirements, from the Department of Homeland Security.
Statement on Deferred Action from Rep. Lamar Smith:
“There is little that’s clear about the President’s jobs agenda but it’s crystal clear that he has placed opportunities for illegal immigrants to work in the U.S. at the top of his list. With unemployment at 8.3%, it’s unconscionable that the Obama administration’s amnesty program actually requires illegal immigrants to apply for work authorization in the U.S. This undercuts the 23 million unemployed or underemployed Americans.
The President’s amnesty program is a magnet for fraud and abuse. While potentially millions of illegal immigrants will be permitted to compete with American workers for scarce jobs, there seems to be little if any mechanism in place for vetting fraudulent applications and documentation submitted by illegal immigrants. With Americans’ jobs on the line, the Administration should take all the necessary steps to protect their livelihoods.
“Because there is no fee for the amnesty application, American taxpayers will be on the hook to pay for President Obama’s amnesty when the Administration comes running to Congress for more money to clear the backlog created by the program. American taxpayers should not be forced to bail out illegal immigrants and President Obama’s fiscally irresponsible policies.
How can the Administration justify implementing a fraud-ridden program that will deprive Americans of jobs and cost taxpayers? President Obama and his administration routinely put partisan politics and illegal immigrants ahead of the rule of law and the American people. With this track record, it’s looking more likely that even President Obama may lose his job in this economy when Americans go to the polls this November."