Young illegal immigrants nationwide, including tens of thousands in Florida, can begin to file Aug. 15 for permission to stay in the United States legally for two years and avoid deportation.
The new policy, which will also allow those eligible to apply for work permits, was announced by the Obama administration on June 15. It is expected to immediately affect 800,000-1 million people across the country.
Alejandro Mayorkas, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, announced Friday that the application for the deferred deportation and work permit will open next week and cost $465. The fee is expected to offset the cost of the program to the federal government, which will include performing criminal background and national security checks. The entire process is expected to take several months per applicant.
The initial stage of the program covers persons at least 15 years old, but who younger than 31 on June 15. Applicants must have been brought to the U.S. before the age of 16, have been in the country at least five consecutive years, have no serious criminal record and either be in school, have completed high school or attained a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the military.
If the policy were to be extended, individuals now in the U.S. and between 5 and 14, who fit the other qualifications, might also be able to apply.
The policy change was made by the administration after a bill known as the Dream Act, which covered the same group of young illegals, stalled repeatedly in Congress. In announcing the new policy President Obama said people brought to the U.S. as children who had lived significant portions of their lives here and were achieving success in the U.S. should not be punished for the immigration violations of their parents and face deportation.
Illegal immigrants currently in deportation proceedings can apply if they meet the requirements. As for undocumented persons who have never been apprehended by authorities, immigration officials have pledged that no information included in an application will be used to find and detain an applicant. The exception would be any person with a serious criminal history or who is considered a security threat.
An applicant who has been found guilty of a felony, a “significant” misdemeanor such as a firearms offense or burglary, or is a repeat offender with three or more misdemeanors would be considered a person with a serious criminal history and be ineligible. Driving without a license, a frequent violation by illegal immigrants because they cannot get driver licenses in most states, will not disqualify an applicant, immigration officials said.
According to the non-profit Immigration Policy Center in Washington, as many as 936,930 people nationwide qualify to apply immediately for two years of deferred deportation. Another 426,000 children between the ages of 5 and 14 could eventually apply if the policy is extended.
Nationally, 68 percent of the potential beneficiaries are Mexican; 13 percent are from Central America, the Caribbean and Canada; 8 percent are Asian; 7 percent are from South America; 2 percent are from Europe; and 2 percent are from other parts of the world.
According to the same data, in Florida as many as 60,190 people can apply right now and another 25,560 may be eligible in time. In Florida, more come from Central American and South American countries than from Mexico.
One person eligible now is Dulce Barrios, 19, of West Palm Beach, who says she came from Mexico with her family when she was 5 years old. She says she graduated from Forest Hill High School last year and now wants to attend Palm Beach State College, but has been unable to afford the out-of-state tuition. Even with the deferred deportation she will still pay out of state rates.
“But now if I can get approved and get the work permit, that will make it easier to make the money to go,” she said. “Even if I can start taking one class, that’s something.”
She says her brother Miguel, 20, graduated John Leonard High School in 2010, and her brother Brigham, 17, is currently studying at the same school. They will also be able to apply for deferred deportation when the family can scrape together the $465 per person.
Attorney Richard Hujber of Boynton Beach says attorneys are waiting for immigration authorities to post a new form they will need to fill out for applicants.
“I’m expecting to see that online in the next nine days and then I’ll be filling quite a few cases—maybe a couple of dozen,” he said Monday.
Attorney Aileen Josephs of West Palm Beach advised would-be applicants to consult legal service attorneys or attorneys in private practice before filing.
“If they make mistakes in the application there is no appeal,” she said. “People have to be very careful. This is too important.”
The Palm Beach Post