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Lakhs of young illegal immigrants line up to file applications in US

India TV News Desk 16 Aug 2012, 11:26:54 AM IST
India TV News Desk
New York, Aug 16 : Hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants scrambled to get papers in order on Wednesday as the US started accepting applications to allow them to avoid deportation and get a temporary work permit.

US President Barack Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme in June after pressure from Hispanic voters and others who said he hasn't fulfilled a campaign promise to overhaul tangled US immigration laws.

Duvan Diaz, originally from Colombia was one of those waiting to complete his application in New York city.

“My mom brought me here to live the American dream, or something better, because the situation over there really wasn't good,” Diaz said.

The new plan is to stop deporting many illegal immigrants who were brought to the US as children.

“For most of these kids, they've never had any status,” said Thomas Ragland whose organisation Immigration Lawyers Association was assisting applicants in Washington DC on Wednesday.

“The idea of going from ‘I don't have anything right now' to ‘I could get my drivers license, I could be able to get a job, I could be able to work' - that's really worth it,” Ragland said.

But US Citizenship and Immigration Services officials have said that being approved to avoid deportation “does not provide lawful status or a path to citizenship.”

The Migration Policy Institute and the Pew Hispanic Center estimate that as many as 1.7 (m) million people could be eligible to stay in the US and legally work under the new policy.

In an internal document outlining the programme's implementation, officials estimated 1.04 (m) million people would apply in the first year and about 890 thousand would be eligible.

“The truth is that this is our country. We grew up here. We've been educated here. We're from here,” said Karla Clara who was born in El Salvador and now lives in Maryland.

“For them to say that we're ‘aliens,' like we're foreigners - it makes me laugh because the truth is we're doing everything to grow up in this country and to help this country,” Clara said as she processed her application in Ragland's office in Washington DC.

Applicants must pay a 465 US dollar fee and provide proof of identity and eligibility.

Immigration Lawyers Association officials said the programme could be revoked at anytime, though.

“It's not a green card. It's not residency. It's not citizenship,” Ragland said, adding that a change of administration could mean an end to the programme.