Obama's new deportation rules for young illegal immigrants goes into effect on today
POSTED: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - 8:00am
UPDATED: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - 8:03am
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — Today's the day more than a million young, illegal immigrants across the country can start becoming legal, at least temporarily.
A federal program to defer deportation of illegal immigrants aged 30 and younger becomes official policy Wednesday.
The deferred deportation program benefits illegal immigrants brought here as children, like Erika Andiola, 24, who came to the U.S. from Mexico at age 11.
"It's just such a relief that we're given this opportunity," she says.
After Congress failed to pass the Dream Act, President Obama announced the new initiative back in June.
"It makes no sense to expel talented young people who for all intents and purposes are Americans," he said at the time.
It applies to those who were brought to the U.S. when they were under 16, have resided in the U.S. for at least five years, are in school, graduated or honorably discharged from the military, don't have felony or serious misdemeanor convictions, and are 30 or younger.
If they qualify and pay $465, they can defer their deportation for at least two years, or longer if they re-apply.
The agency taking the applications says it'll be on the lookout for fraud and scams.
"The wrong help can hurt and we are of course especially concerned about the vulnerability of young individuals," says Alejandro Mayorkas, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Critics say the program itself is fraudulent, unconstitutional and promoted by the president to win favor with Latino voters.
"The administration is taking on itself the moral authority, if you will, to decide like a dictator or a king who gets to come and who doesn't," says Dan Stein of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
Researchers estimate the new policy allows up to 1.7 million foreign born people to now live and work here without fear of being deported.