In the Navy pier, in Chicago, Illinois, the lines started last night. By the end of the day today, it is expected that more than ten thousand young undocumented immigrants will have received guidance and help in applying for deferred deportation status, which went into effect today.
“We see many Latino and brown faces, but this is like the United Nations,” says Rudy Lopez, from the Center for Community Change. ”It is so exciting – there are Latinos, Asians, Africans, Eastern Europeans -and many of these Dreamers have been waiting their whole lives for this moment,” adds Lopez.
For some, the dream is to attend college following a successful high school career. For others, it is the chance to finally have a social security number to provide to a potential employer. Yet for other Dreamers, it is as simple as going to the local Department of Motor Vehicles, obtaining a drivers license, and just stepping on the gas.
“I’m so excited about being ale to drive, get a work permit, and go to graduate school,” said Dreamer Erika Andiola from Mesa, Arizona, as she got ready for her and her brother’s application.
Today marks the day when almost 1.7 million young undocumented adults, primarily brought here as children, will be able to apply for deferred deportation under an executive order announced by President Obama on June 15. This allows undocumented young adults to legally pursue work or education for the next two years. After the executive order was announced in June, the government as well as community organizations around the country have scrambled to set up websites, informational meetings, and legal assistance to those who qualify.
Latino community leaders and legislators around the country who support Dreamer legislation are holding events today to celebrate the temporary but still real victory for those young undocumented immigrants who publicly risked deportation through marches, rallies in Washington and exposure in the media.
“We have been out of the shadows for a couple of years now,” says Andiola. “It’s such a good feeling to see the work pay off.”
The celebratory events in places like Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami also will provide information and assistance to those who are planning to apply. Lines were forming in consulates around the country as families lined up to acquire the necessary documentation to apply. The states with the most eligible undocumented young adults are California, Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois.
While immigration is a political hot potato in the country, the majority of Americans support allowing undocumented children and young adults to stay in the U.S. if they are attending college or enlisting in the military. A May 2012 United Technology/National Journal poll found almost 90 percent of Americans are against deporting Dreamers who go to college or are in the military. Forty nine percent agreed that Congress should allow Dreamer students and military personnel to remain in the country and guarantee they can become citizens, and 35 percent said Washington should allow them to remain here and apply for citizenship without guarantees.
Allowing Dreamers to have the ability to attend college has also been supported by many in higher education as well as in business. According to Pew Research, a college graduate will earn at least half a million dollars more than a high school graduate, even after factoring in the cost of attending college and not working for those four years, thus contributing more in taxes and generating more income in his or her community.
Young undocumented adults under 31 who were brought to the U.S. when they were 16 or younger and who have lived here continuously for five years can apply for deferred deportation, provided they have either graduated from high school or are in the process, have been honorably discharged from the military or Coast Guard, and have clean criminal records.
The cost of applying for deferred deportation is $465. The Associated Press reports a government document estimates it will cost between $467.7 million and $585.4 million to process the applications. The government expects to collect about $484.2 million in application fees.
Both defenders and critics of deferred deportation point out that this is a temporary measure. While Dreamers like Andiola get ready to send their applications in , the temporary status is in their minds.
“It’s important we hold our legislators accountable to pass the Dream Act,” says Andiola. “Right now, though, I tell Dreamers not to worry. There is not way they will want to deport over a million Dreamers, and if they do, we will fight back.”