Reporting Meghan McCorkell
WASHINGTON (WJZ) — A dream becoming reality. Massive crowds of young illegal immigrants gathered to sign up for a new program allowing them to stay in the U.S. for two years. It’s a program that’s come under fire.
Meghan McCorkell has details.
Wednesday is the first day illegal immigrants could apply for the “deferred action” program. It would grant a temporary two-year visa to those who were brought to the U.S. as children.
Hundreds of illegal immigrants are dreaming of a new future.
“This is my dream and this is all those people outside’s dreams,” said Jhony Llamas.
Llamas, 19, came to the U.S. illegally five years ago. Now he’s applying for a program that would allow him to stay here for two years without fear of deportation.
“I started to cry. I was crying like a little baby. I can’t believe it,” Llamas said.
Casa de Maryland is helping applicants with the opportunity.
“Finding a job, applying for college, moving forward and really making a success of their lives in this country,” said George Escobar, Casa de Maryland.
Advocates estimate 1.7 million people could qualify for the program. Applicants must be under the age of 31 and have arrived in the United States before they turned 16. They must be high school students or graduates or served in the U.S. military. They cannot have a criminal record.
Opponents argue the program could take jobs away from unemployed Americans.
“I think it’s going to lead to more illegal aliens coming across the border and I think it’s going to lead to fraud,” said Tom Fitton, Judicial Watch.
Immigration issues are at the forefront as the Maryland Dream Act goes on the ballot in November. It would grant in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, like Llamas.
“I want to start college and start my education for my future. Like I said, my new beginning,” he said.
Governor Martin O’Malley signed the Dream Act but opponents gathered enough signatures to put it to the voters in November.
Casa de Maryland will hold another clinic to help applicants at their Baltimore offices Thursday night.