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Aurora woman among thousands applying for Dream Act

Undocumented students line up early Navy Pier apply for deferred actistay study United States legally.

Undocumented students line up early at Navy Pier to apply for deferred action to stay and study in the United States legally.

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assistance with applying

World Relief will offer a deferred action workshop from 1 to 5 p.m. Aug. 24 at 1825 College Ave. in Wheaton. At the workshop, young people will receive legal consultation with an immigration attorney, and assistance to complete the necessary forms. For more information call 630-468-7660.

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Updated: September 20, 2012 6:17AM

Thousands of people showed up at Chicago’s Navy Pier last week, on the first day the federal government began accepting applications for a program that would temporarily protect young people from deportation and provide opportunities to work and study legally in the U.S..

The 817th person in line was a 29-year-old Aurora woman who showed up at 4 a.m. Wednesday. (The woman asked that her name not be used in this story because she has concerns about losing her job due to her immigration status.) She carried a suitcase full of documents proving she’s been here since the age of 9, when her parents brought her from Mexico.

“I knew it was going to be packed,” she said. “If people make lines for shoes and video games, I was sure that people would make lines for this.”

“I’ve been waiting for this since high school,” said the woman, a college graduate. “That’s when it really started to affect me. I took driver’s education and started applying for colleges. It was really hard.”

Years ago, the woman was more actively involved in immigration law, heading to Washington and Springfield to tell her story. When no progress was made, her dream seemed dashed. On Wednesday, she said, that changed.

The Obama administration’s new policy could allow an estimated 1 million young immigrants across the U.S. to apply for ‘deferred action’ on deportation orders and gain temporary work visas. It allows those who came to the U.S. before the age of 16 and are still under age 30, have earned a high school diploma or GED, and who have no criminal record, to stay in the U.S. and to apply for documentation that will allow them to work legally.

The new policy, however, falls short of what the Dream Act, which never made it through Congress, had promised: a path to citizenship.

“This is not a solution to the problem it’s only a Band-Aid over a huge wound,” said Mireya Luna, who manages the immigration program at Family Focus in Aurora. “All this is is a work permit so they can work legally. .. Imagine being brought here when you are 9 months old, only to find out you’re undocumented when you turn 16 and ask your parents for your social security card.”

Luna said that for thousands of undocumented students, the policy offers an opportunity to grow personally and professionally.

“They’ve already finished college. They want to be teachers. They want to be something,” Luna said.

Appointments at Family Focus have skyrocketed since June, when the policy was announced, Luna said. People are eager to find out what they need to do to qualify.

“We’re booked the next two weeks with appointments,” Luna said.

World Relief will hold a deferred action workshop Aug. 24. The workshop, from 1 to 5 p.m. at 1825 College Ave. in Wheaton will offer consultation with an immigration attorney and assistance in filling out the necessary forms.

Officials with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrants and Refugee Rights estimate that there are 75,000 undocumented youth in Illinois.

“It’s just amazing that something like this has happened,” the Aurora woman said of the Navy Pier gathering. “I still can’t believe it for some reason... I almost felt like it wasn’t true.”

Sun-Times reporter Kara Spak
contributed to this story.

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