SANTA ANA, Calif. — Nathaly Uribe has all the papers she needs to get a work permit — something the 17-year-old daughter of a construction worker only dreamed of growing up as an illegal immigrant in the United States.
The high school senior said she hopes a federal program that defers deportation for illegal immigrants will make it easier to get a decent job and help pay for college.
“This is my country. It’s where my roots are,” said Uribe, who moved from Chile when she was a toddler and lives in Glen Burnie, Md. “It feels great to know that the country that I call home is finally accepting me.”
Thousands of young illegal immigrants lined up yesterday hoping for the right to work legally in America without being deported. The Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals could expand the rights of more than 1 million young illegal immigrants by giving them work permits, though they would not obtain legal residency here or a path to citizenship.
At least 13,000 people stood in line in Chicago, clutching reams of paperwork, for a workshop led by immigrant rights advocates at the city’s Navy Pier. Hundreds of potential applicants waited outside nonprofit offices in Los Angeles for help filing paperwork to open the door to the staples of success in America — a work permit, and then later a Social Security number and driver’s license.
“It’s something I have been waiting for since I was 2 years old,” said Bupendra Ram, a 25-year-old communications graduate student in Fullerton, Calif., who still needs supporting documents from his Fiji Islands home before he can apply. “This offers us an opportunity to fulfill the dreams I’ve had since I was a child.”
Less than three months before an expected tight presidential election, the new immigration program is mired in controversy. Republican critics accuse President Barack Obama of drafting the plan to boost his political standing with Latinos ahead of November’s vote and say the program favors illegal immigrants over unemployed American citizens during dismal economic times.