A Tennessee Congresswoman plans to file a bill in Washington to block a policy change within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that will defer action against young people in the country illegally, if they meet certain criteria.
"I am just so disappointed that this administration has continued to try to change policy by just a dictate and not taking policy through Congress as it should be," District 6 Congresswoman Diane Black said. "This is not a monarchy."
The policy change takes effect immediately.
According to DHS, people who meet certain criteria will be eligible for deferred action for a period of two years and will be eligible to apply for work authorization. The deferred action eligibility will have to be renewed.
Those who qualify for deferred action would avoid deportation or entering into removal proceedings.
DHS estimates 800,000 people nationwide could qualify.
"We need to be making sure we are giving jobs to people who are here in our country who are citizens," Black said.
In order to qualify, the person must have come to the United States before the age of 16. They must have continuously lived in the United States for five years prior to June 15, 2012 and be in the country on the 15th.
They must also be currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a GED or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or United States Armed Forces.
The person can not have been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
Finally, the person must be younger than 30 years old.
"These kids had nothing to do with coming up here to America. When they came, many of them came as infants," immigration attorney Elliot Ozment said. "Now that their parents brought them and they have grown up. They are as American as you and I."
Ozment has practiced immigration law for several years. He said the policy change is a step forward for immigration reform, but more needs to be done.
"We have high hopes because number one, as the president said today, it is the right thing to do," Ozment said.
Yuri Cunza, president of the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said the policy change may help protect immigrants from being taken advantage of by predatory employers.
"People with no immigration permit feel very vulnerable," he said. "They feel like they have no rights even though the Constitution protects anyone who lives in the United States."
Even though, the policy change is immediate the department estimates it will take 60 days before it can implement the application process.
Ozment told Nashville's News 2 his office is already receiving calls from people who want to apply.