At least 1.2 million young undocumented immigrants will be able to apply for a temporary stay of deportation and a work permit beginning today.
This is the enactment of a policy President Obama announced back in June and it applies to younger illegal immigrants with no criminal history who were brought to the country as children.
At the time, President Obama said this new policy was simply the "the right thing to do," but that it also helped Immigration and Customs Enforcement focus on deporting criminals. His opponents said that the president had overstepped his authority by issuing the new policy; they said he had enacted his own so-called DREAM Act without the approval of Congress.
"Just yesterday alone, said staff at the American Friends Service Committee — a Quaker-based social justice organization — a receptionist in the Newark office fielded 20 phone calls from immigrants with a raft of questions.
"Since Obama announced the program, Amy Gottlieb, director of that American Friends office, said she and her staff have answered another 180 phone calls. What's more, even though the office has an appointment-only policy, it has been giving out information each day to several immigrants who happen to walk in.
"We've gotten 'increasing calls, lots of people asking for information,' Gottlieb said. A good number of those calls, she added, have been from people 'assuming or hoping that it is more than it is — they think it might be some sort of amnesty or a way to get a green card.'"
A group of young immigrants that has undertaken a cross-country bus tour that will end in Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention stopped in Memphis, today, where some of them filled out their applications.
Nataly Cruz, 22, was among them.
"I know that it will be a relief to be able to work legally and have a driver's license, but it is temporary," she said in a statement. "I also think about my sisters, cousins, my mom and my dad who still have no rights in this country. That is why I'm on the bus, and why I will continue to work for just and permanent solutions."
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has a webpage that details the application process.
UPI spoke to a USCIS spokesman who said applications will likely take "several months to process."