Immigration lawyers are seeing an increase in calls from people wanting to know how to apply for deferred action through the Department of Homeland Security.
"The very first consult I had this morning was with a girl who was 13 years old and her parents brought her here because she wanted to see a lawyer," immigration attorney Elliott Ozment said. "I had to tell her there was nothing I could do for her today because you have to be 15 before you can register for this program."
Under the provisions of the program, illegal immigrants who meet certain criteria will be allowed to apply for work authorization and will not be deported.
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.
The provisions are closely matched to those in the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors or DREAM Act.
The measure has not been passed by Congress.
"I am just so disappointed that this administration has continued to try to change policy by just a dictate," 6th District Representative Diane Black said. "Not taking policy through Congress as it should be."
Ozment said he has had so many people making appointments that by Monday his calendar for the rest of the week is already full.
"First of all this has been an issue that has built up a lot of pent up demand for resolution," he said. "It is a sad commentary on this country that this problem has existed for as long as it has."
Ozment also said some people are being cautious about applying for the program. Some he said want to wait until after the November election.
"If Mitt Romney wins in November this action could just as easily be undone by President Mitt Romney," he said. "What if that was to happen? What would happen to those young people?"
The change in policy is immediate, but the application process is expected to begin in roughly 60 days. The Department of Homeland Security estimates that 800,000 people could qualify for the program.
After a person is accepted into the deferred action program they have to reapply every two years.
The illegal immigrant can apply for work authorization and also enroll in college.
"I have had others come in here today in tears thankful that someone cared enough to do something," Ozment said. "I just wish it had been done sooner."
Rep. Black has said she will draft legislation to reverse the change to the DHS policy this week when she returns to Washington.
Wednesday, May 22 2013 12:07 PM EDT2013-05-22 16:07:37 GMT
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