NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Starting August 15, illegal immigrants that were brought to the United States as children can apply to temporarily live and work in the country legally. Hundreds stood in line outside the Mexican Consulate in Dallas, waiting to apply for passports on the eve of application day.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative means hundreds of thousands will be eligible to apply for limited deportation deferral.
"They will get a reprieve from deportation for two years and under the plan, as it's constructed right now, they could apply for renewal of that status," explained Michelle Mittelstadt, director of communications with the non-partisan Migration Policy Institute.
Those requesting consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals will have undergo a background check and prove they were under the age of 16 when they came to the U.S. and that they were under the age of 31 at the time the program was announced -- a couple of months ago.
"Once they prove those criteria and undergo a background check, they will be considered, on a case-by-case basis so this is not a blanket grant of status, for deferred action," Mittelstadt said. "Those who prove an economic necessity could then also get a work authorization document."
Eva Zuniga, 16, who was brought to the U.S. by her parents when she was just 8-months-old, said she lived in fear until June 15, when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced young undocumented immigrants who met certain requirements could potentially stay in the U.S. legally.
"It was the biggest fear to know that was I was going to be deported," she said. Zuniga feared her two younger sisters, ages two and six, would be left alone if she and her parents, who are illegal immigrants, were deported.
But news of the policy change gave her new inspiration,"Oh my God, I was so excited. I even cried," she said.
Officials with the Department of Homeland Security say as many as 1.7 million illegal immigrants may be eligible for the new program. Those applying will incur some costs. There is $465 in application fees and additional costs for fingerprinting.
"U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is a fee based agency," Mittelstadt explained. "The budget that they get has to come, for the most part, from fees that they get from applicants, for all manner of immigration benefits."
Information presented on the application is protected from disclosure to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), but those receiving deferred action are not being given naturalization or amnesty.
Mittelstadt said, "This is essentially just saying 'you have freedom from the fear of being deported for two years and you have the possibility to get work status.'"
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is available for download online and the first day for application submission is August 15. Eligible applicants can also call the Mexican Consulate of Dallas, at (214) 932-0664, to make an appointment.
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