NAPLES, Fla.- Young illegal immigrants can apply for deferred action this week, to stay and work in the country legally for 2 years.
President Obama announced the new policy in June.
Catholic Charities of Collier County, Diocese of Venice, will assist people in the application process when it begins on Wednesday.
District Director Armando Galella says already about a dozen people have expressed interest in the program to help young immigrants.
"In this case the majority are high school students, juniors and seniors, who understand they have an opportunity now to step forward and we are instructing them on the paperwork they will need to move forward with the deferment," he says. "They're very excited about it but I think there is a level of skepticism because of everything they've had to fear during their time here in America. I think it is guarded optimism for them so we're hopeful this is the beginning of what will be a change in our policy."
In order to qualify for the program, applicants must be under 31 years old as of June 15, 2012, brought to the U.S before their 16th birthday, and have lived here since June 2007. Also, they must be in school, graduated or honorably discharged from the military and not convicted of a felony or 3 misdemeanors.
There is also a $465 application fee.
But Galella says the policy is long overdue, and hopes it will eventually lead to a pathway to citizenship. "We're hoping that this is the beginning of a change in policy for these children and young adults and it will become policy, become law. Their classmates are citizens and many of them doing good work and now is the chance for them to move forward," he says.
Galella says there are still questions with such a new policy. "There's the fear that yeah, my mom's undocumented and she can be deported if there is a problem. And that's why it is guarded optimism."
For more information on how to apply or whether you qualify for deferred action, visit www.uscis.gov. You can also contact Catholic Charities of Collier County at 239-657-6242.