Wednesday marks the first day that young illegal immigrants in the Metro D.C. area can apply for a program that protects them from deportation.
Casa de Maryland, an immigrant advocacy group out of Langley Park, Md., hundreds of young, undocumented immigrants looking to participate in a mass application clinic this afternoon. The youngsters, who were lined up around the block, filed paperwork for the "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals" program, which would defer their deportation for two years and allow them to attain a status that will allow them to get IDs, legal employment and even in-state tuition in some cases.
But not all who are eligible may apply, because the program only lasts two years and is based on the President Obama's discretion, not any law. He announced the program earlier this year.
Any young undocumented immigrant could, by coming forward and applying, face deportation if Mitt Romney wins the upcoming presidential race. Romney has criticized the plan, as have most Republicans and those who support a tough stance on illegal immigration. Some of the people in line say that giving their name to the government, given their illegal status, is worth the risk if it gives them a shot at an education or a better-paying job.
Casa’s executive director Gustavo Torres says this is the biggest moment in federal immigration reform since President Reagan signed an amnesty bill a quarter century ago: "Because in 25 years, we don’t have this kind of program, and people, they really want to integrate in the extraordinary society. They want to pay taxes, they want to go to college."
The program applies to immigrants under the age of 30 who arrived in the country illegally before the age of 16 and who have no criminal record. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has a webpage that details the application process.