The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began accepting requests Wednesday for consideration of deferred action for young undocumented immigrants who arrived in America as children.
Here are five things you should know about the bold change announced by President Barack Obama in June:
1. What is it?
The policy is a "temporary" measure that allows eligible immigrants to apply for work permits and deportation deferral for a two-year period. Supporters stress it does not grant immunity or a provide a shortcut to citizenship but affords undocumented immigrant children a chance to be productive workers -- with a promise they won't be deported for two years. Opponents see the policy as granting backdoor amnesty to people who came to America illegally and tightening an already poor job market for young Americans.
2. Who is eligible?
As many as 1.7 million youths may qualify for the program, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center. To be eligible to apply, you must have arrived in America when you were 16 or younger and must be 30 or under now. You must also have lived continuously in the United States for five years and must be currently in school or already graduated from high school or have served in the military. You cannot apply if you have been convicted of a felony or major misdemeanor.
3. What does it cost?
The application fee is $465, which funds the administrative costs of the program, including a biometric check and the issuance of a secure work-authorization document.
4. Is there a risk?
Homeland Security officials have assured people that information in applications will be confidential and will not be used to round up other undocumented people. Immigration lawyers are advising applicants to inform themselves before making a decision. The measure requires a renewal in two years, but there is no guarantee the policy will still be around then. It's an executive order, not law, and if Mitt Romney wins the presidential election, he will have the power to revoke it.
5. Is it political?
The deferred deportation policy addresses a great concern of the Latino community and includes some of the provisions of a Democratic proposal called the DREAM Act that failed to win enough Republican support to become law. In this year's presidential election, Latino votes are critical in several battleground states, including Florida and Nevada.