The Obama administration will kick off one of the most sweeping changes in immigration policy in decades Wednesday, allowing an estimated 1.7 million young undocumented immigrants to apply for the temporary right to live and work openly in the United States without fear of deportation.
Immigrants have waited for final details of the plan in the two months since President Obama pledged to brush aside years of congressional stalemate over the Dream Act and grant de facto residency to qualified immigrants who were brought to the country as children.
On Tuesday, officials surprised advocacy groups by posting the application forms online one day early. Advocates across the country are planning workshops Wednesday for hundreds of immigrants eager to learn who will qualify and how to apply.
Families have been scrambling to assemble school records, utility bills and other documents that may be needed, they said.
“People are very, very anxious to file, so we’ve been telling them to over-prepare,” said Emid Gonzalez, manager of legal services at Casa de Maryland. The group has scheduled an afternoon workshop Wednesday at which she expects to see family documents by the armload. “The phone has been ringing off the hook.”
The program is open to immigrants ages 15 to 31 who came to the country before they were 16 and have lived here continuously for at least the past five years. Among other restrictions, they must be free of serious criminal convictions, be enrolled in or have completed high school, or have served in the U.S. military. On Tuesday, officials confirmed that those enrolled in GED programs and certain training programs will also qualify, broadening the program’s potential reach. <Read more.>