“What this has done is to signal that the president, who was unable to get comprehensive immigration reform, does at least care about the situation of these immigrants,” Pastor said. “This is something that has been overwhelmingly popular in the immigrant population and in the Latino population in general.”
Some Republican lawmakers have accused Obama of sidestepping Congress and creating a backdoor amnesty program.
“It’s a betrayal of American young people,” said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican. “We’re supposed to be representing the interests of the American people — not people who come here illegally from other countries.”
In an internal document outlining the program’s implementation, Department of Homeland Security officials estimated more than 1 million people would apply in the first year and about 890,000 would be eligible.
On Wednesday, immigrants lined up for help filing applications at workshops around the country. Others sought identity documents from consulates to be able to apply.
Jaqueline Cinto said she’s still working on gathering the documents she needs, knowing it’s her only shot at putting her master’s degree in education to good use. But she’s nervous that filing the papers might put her relatives at risk for deportation — even though Homeland Security officials have said they will generally not use applicants’ information to track down other family.
“I am even more afraid that I might be denied,” said Cinto, 26, who came to New York more than a decade ago from Mexico.
In central California, one group has been warning farmworkers and their children not to sign up for the program at all.
“Immigration agents could haul them off that same day,” said Manuel Cunha, president of the Nisei Farmers League. “Even if they don’t, if this policy is disbanded, now ICE has the addresses of all the families. Why would you want to squeal on your parents?”