Immigration offices saw long lines in Los Angeles as thousands of undocumented immigrants nationwide began applying to delay deportation for two years and get work permits -- and immigrants say the Dream Act gives them hope.
All of this is possible because of President Barack Obama's Delayed Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Those who came to the U.S. before they were 16, spent five years here, earned their high school diploma and have no criminal record will be eligible for citizenship.
While critics say the program basically grants backdoor amnesty and favors illegal immigrants over unemployed, Arlette Gaona said she hopes it will be her first step toward living the American dream.
"We're going to prove the things we are capable of doing as long as we get a chance," she said.
Undocumented youth who qualify for the program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, beginning today can file applications downloaded from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website. Each one must be accompanied by a $465 fee.
The program in itself will not produce immediate citizenship or give its participants permission to travel outside the United States.
To take part, immigrants must be under 31 and prove they arrived before they turned 16, have been in the country at least five years, are in school or have either graduated or served in the military. They also cannot have a criminal record.
Immigrant advocates are planning ceremonial events to welcome the new policy and workshops to instruct participants how to proceed. The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles says its staff will be helping undocumented youth with paperwork starting today.