POSTED: Saturday, August 18, 2012 - 9:00am
UPDATED: Saturday, August 18, 2012 - 9:04am
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — Tens of thousands of young immigrants who were brought to this country illegally are lining up to make their presence here legal.
They call themselves "dreamers" and Wednesday was the first day they could apply for temporary legal status.
At the Navy Pier in Chicago 12,000 lined up for their first shot at becoming legal.
Some had even camped overnight.
"I'm just excited to be here and to be able to apply and see the application," one said.
The application is for a temporary reprieve from deportation, which they all faced until the Obama administration ordered the change in immigration laws.
"It just protects them from deportation and gives them a work permit," explains Cindy Agustin of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.
A work permit, provided they qualify, which basically means they've been lawful and productive since arriving here as a young child.
Colombia-born Virginia Tech student Juan Aljure was one of those who turned out to get their applications ready in Miami.
"I think I could be a great asset to the country, getting a great education at a great institution, I mean I don't want to go anywhere else, I want to stay here," he said.
Also in Miami was Daniela Pelaez, the high school valedictorian who made national headlines after narrowly avoiding deportation before her graduation.
"I think it's a big step in a positive direction," she said.
Critics call this "back door" amnesty and say it still isn't the big fix the nation's immigration laws need.
If successful, applicants can get a driver's license and Social Security number, but have to re-apply in two years.