Armed with foreign birth certificates, school records and proof they have grown up in the U.S., tens of thousands of young illegal immigrants across the country applied Wednesday to a program that could allow them to remain in the country and work legally.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) began accepting applications Wednesday. The program, announced by President Barack Obama in June, is the biggest development in immigration policy since 1986, when President Ronald Reagan convinced Congress to pass an amnesty that benefited three million undocumented immigrants. Beneficiaries of DACA will get a Social Security number. However, they won’t get a green card—permanent legal residency that would put them on the path to U.S. citizenship. DACA participants have to reapply every two years.
Some critics of illegal immigration say the program is tantamount to amnesty and will mean more competition for scarce jobs. Others say the president is pandering to Latino voters in an election year.
To qualify, immigrants must show they arrived in the U.S. before they turned 16, are 30 or younger and have lived continuously in the country for at least five years. They also must be enrolled in school in the U.S., have graduated from high school here or served in the U.S. military. The application fee is $465.
Immigrants have been scrambling to secure thedocuments they require. The consulates of Mexico and some Central American countries saw demand surge for passports and other identification. Los Angeles Unified School District’s student-records office was barraged with requests for transcripts.