Local immigration lawyers swamped after "Deferred Action" program kicks in
POSTED: Thursday, August 16, 2012 - 6:24pm
UPDATED: Thursday, August 16, 2012 - 6:33pm
Young immigrants who were brought to the country illegally were allowed to start applying for the government's controversial "Deferred Action" program Wednesday.
It's an alternative to the DREAM Act that would prevent those who qualify from being deported for at least two years.
"Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals" or DACA, allows those who meet very specific guidelines to get a temporary sort of waiver from the government.
It doesn't give these people the ability to become citizens, but is simply approval to stay in the country for a period of time and seek authorization to work.
It may sound like a small step to some, but to an estimated 1 million young immigrants it means much more.
"All we want is to find where we belong," said 18-year-old Ever Martinez. " ...To wake up unafraid, wanted and able to follow our dreams. The American Dream."
Martinez was brought here from Mexico when we was six years old.
He is looking forward to applying for the program, which for him, he says, could be life changing.
"I could get a decent job. I could maybe get a driver's license. I wouldn't have to be scared that if I'm driving and get pulled over, I'll get deported," Martinez said.
Immigration lawyer Ginger Young says since the initiative was announced two months ago, she has been flooded with calls from people like Martinez.
"We received thousands of calls," Young said. "I've personally met with over 250 people. We are retaining about five to six times the normal amount of clients we've seen over the last several months."
To be considered for the program, the requirements are strict.
You have to have come to the U.S. before reaching your 16th birthday, be under age 31, and have continuously lived here since 2007.
You also must have a clean criminal record, to name a few.
Filing the paperwork, Young says, is also lengthy and complicated.
"They have to be right," Young said. "They have to be 100 percent complete because if one wrong box piece of information could mean the difference between being approved and denied."
To people like Martinez, who starts college at Jacksonville Baptist College next week, it's completely worth it.
"I just wanna wake up and feel at home," Martinez said. "... Feel like I belong."
Although many people across the country are in support of this program, some Republicans are condemning the move, arguing it grants amnesty to potentially millions of illegal immigrants, and will worsen an already weak job market for younger Americans.
Young says it's a good idea to get professional help when applying, because you only get one shot to do it right.
There are also concerns of scammers.
"When exciting things happen, people come out of the wood work that have never done this before," Young said. "And it's a very complicated area of the law, but you gotta go with someone that you trust that's gonna get it filed ... and timely."
As far as how long this process is supposed to take after its filed, the government is estimating about four months, give or take a few.
The cost for the application fee alone is $465.
For more details on DACA, click here.