Program offers work permits to young illegal immigrants - WSMV Channel 4

Program offers work permits to young illegal immigrants

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Thousands of young illegal immigrants lined up across the country Wednesday hoping for the right to work legally in America without being deported.

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which is designed for a certain group of immigrants - those aged 30 or younger who came to the U.S. before the age of 16.

Anyone who applies must also have lived here for five years and be free of any criminal history. And the immigrants need to have either a high school diploma or prior service in the military.

Critics say the law gives a free pass to people who are here illegally, but those who moved here as young children say they had no choice.

Now, many local groups are pushing for eligible people to apply, and it only takes a few pages of paperwork to get started.

Luis Escoto graduated from Glenn Cliff High School last year, but he wasn't quite 3 years old when his parents moved to this country from Guadalajara, Mexico.

The 19-year-old is an undocumented illegal immigrant, and he said he feels like he is in a kind of limbo. At any time, immigration could deport him.

"I'm in fear of one day I could be deported and my parents would be left here, and there would be no one to really take care of them," Escoto said.

The Tennessee Immigration and Refugee Rights Coalition, or TIRRC, is urging undocumented immigrants who are under the age of 31 to fill out the paperwork and take workshops that will allow them to stay here a few years without fear of deportation.

The Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals program is not a pathway to citizenship like the Obama administration's Dream Act, but it does buy time and allows young people like Escoto some latitude in temporary citizenship.

"It allows them relief from deportation, and it also allows them to apply for a work permit that has to be renewed every two years," said Eben Cathey, with TIRRC.

Nearly 6,000 people are eligible for deferred action in Middle Tennessee. For more information, visit: http://tnimmigrant.org.

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