young illegal immigrants who meet certain qualifications can apply for two year work permits to stay in the USA, conservatives blast as 'amnesty'
Applications for temporary work permits which will allow an estimated 1.4 million young immigrants to remain in this country, legally work, and avoid the threat of deportation will begin will be accepted on Wednesday, and Benita Veliz of San Antonio plans to be at the front of the line.
“This will allow me to do the things I’ve always wanted to do and live out the American dream like I’ve always wanted,” Veliz, 27, told 1200 WOAI news.
She is typical of the type of person who will able to apply under the controversial ‘Deferred Deportation’ program, which was announced in June by President Obama. She came to the U.S. from her native Mexico with her illegal immigrant parents when she was eight years old, and since then she has completed high school, and graduated from college with a degree in biology.
“I didn’t have any control over where I was going,” she says. “I barely remember it. I was just told to get in the car and I got in the car.”
The program has proven to be wildly unpopular among Republicans, who decry it at ‘backdoor amnesty,’ and a way to implement the DREAM Act, which was rejected by Congress.
“The Administration’s amnesty agenda is a win for illegal immigrants, but a loss for Americans,” said U.S. Rep Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee.
“American workers should not have to compete with illegal immigrants for scarce jobs and American taxpayers should not have to pay for President Obama’s amnesty agenda.”
To participate in the program, applicants, who will have to pay a $465 fee, must meet specific criteria. They must be under the age of 31, and have come to the country with their immigrant parents when they were 16 or younger. They also must have lived in the country for five years, have completed high school, and have a clean criminal record.
The President’s action has been strongly applauded by Latino leaders.
“Young kids who were brought here through no fault of their own, whose only home is America have to have the opportunity to make their case in the future and not just get deported,” San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who has been tabbed to deliver the Keynote Address at next month’s Democratic National Convention, told 1200 WOAI news.
Castro says the President’s initiative is far from ‘amnesty.’ He says it does not grant the applicants citizenship, the right to vote, or even permanent legal residence in the U.S. The work permits will have to be renewed every two years, and require that young immigrants prove that they are working or in school and have maintained a clean criminal record.
Castro and other supporters point out that the young people who are covered by this initiative speak English as their primary language, have no ties to the country where they were born, and would be lost if they found themselves deported.
That’s what almost happened to Betina Velez, who says she was tabbed for deportation in 2009.
She says she has been unable to get a driver license, has been unable to travel, and has made income only by claiming contractual or ‘1099 income’ which doesn’t require a person to prove legal residence in the country. She says that will come in handy now, because it will enable her to prove the five years’ residence in the country required under the rules.
“I can’t wait to be able to travel and go to all of the places I have read about,” she said. While she planned to use her biology degree to get into the medical profession, she now plans to get an advanced degree in divinity and become a pastor.
She talks about spending her entire life so far in a ‘limbo, where you are here but you can’t live here.’
“Ultimately, the first opportunity that I get, I want to become a U.S. citizen, and that is far harder than people think,” she said. “You first have to become a permanent resident, and although I have been here 19 years, I still don’t qualify to become a permanent resident. And after that, it will be process of many years before I can really achieve my dream.”