A La Vergne woman who has lived in the United States for most of her life now has the ability to legally work, drive a car and attend college.
Angelica Gonzalez, 20, was approved for deferred action through the Department of Homeland Security in November.
"I got really shaky," she said. "I guess that is what it feels like when you get your license for the first time. It was a relief."
The Deferred Action Program allows children who were brought into the United States illegally to avoid deportation by immigration officials.
"This process will help DHS continue to focus immigration enforcement and ensure that resources are not spent pursuing the removal of low priority case involving productive young people," DHS Spokesman Peter Boogaard said.
Applicants have to meet a number of guidelines to qualify, including not being convicted of any felonies or serious misdemeanors. They must also renew their registration every two years.
The program does not confer citizenship to those who are approved, but they can get a work permit and social security number.
For Gonzalez, that means the ability to go to college.
"It is finally hitting me now that I have been looking into apartments and everything," she said. "It is hitting me that I can actually do this."
Gonzalez has two younger siblings who were born in the United States. Her parents brought her to the U.S. on a travel visa and decided to stay.
She did not know what her illegal status meant until she was nearing the end of high school and ready to apply for college.
That is when she realized that without a social security number a lot of doors would be closed to her.
In one instance she applied to a university and left the social security number section blank. She was accepted and even won some scholarships.
A week before she was set to move in the university rescinded the acceptance because she did not have a social security number.
"It's not an ‘'I wish I could' [anymore]," she said. "It is I can and I am going to."
The program has lead to legal action in Arizona. Thursday, the ACLU and other civil rights groups filed lawsuits against the state because on an executive order from Governor Jan Brewer.
Brewer's order prohibits people who received work permits through the deferred action plan from getting valid Arizona driver licenses.
Opponents said she can not single out one group when others are able to obtain driver licenses in the state with similar work permits.
Brewer argues the deferred action program does not give citizenship nor make the recipient a legal resident and therefore is not eligible for a driver license.
Since the program started accepting application in August, 308,935 people had applied by mid-November.
Of those 53,273 cases made it through biometrics and the case review to be approved.