A door is opening Wednesday for nearly 60,000 city residents, as young undocumented immigrants will have the chance to apply for work permits for the first time without worrying about being deported. NY1's Education reporter Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
Mubashar Ahmed dreams of completing his chemical engineering degree and continuing his stem cell research on cancer. Yohan Garcia dreams of working for one of the many government offices where he has interned. Antonio Alarcón dreams of studying journalism.
On Wednesday, all three men will be one step closer to fulfilling their dreams, as they are among the nearly 60,000 city residents who will be able to apply for work papers. Undocumented immigrants brought here as children and raised here as Americans, they are pinning their dreams on a new federal plan that could let them work legally for two years without the threat of deportation.
"We'll be able to stay here and work and continue living as a family. That was always my dad's big wish," said Ahmed.
For years, advocates have been pushing for the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship. President Barack Obama could not get that through Congress, so instead, he's offering a temporary reprieve that could benefit up to 1.7 million immigrants.
"We want to continue to work toward full citizenship in the future, but I think having deferred action and work permits is an important step," said Chung-Wha Hong of the New York Immigration Coalition.
A major push to inform and educate potential applicants and their families is underway. This week, state officials gave nearly $500,000 to support that effort. It will allow groups like the New York Immigration Coalition to hold clinics and give legal advice in a variety of languages for all cultures and ethnicities.
"New York is very diverse, so we have a bigger challenge than other areas," said Hong.
The application will cost $465 and is not a path toward permanent residency.
Eligible immigrants must be under the age of 31 as of June 15, when the program was announced, have come to the United States before their 16th birthday and have resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007.
Applicants also need to either have their high school degree or GED or be working towards one.
Many of the so-called Dreamers say they cannot wait to move forward.
"I've been dreaming since I came here and that's the reason that I am here. I've been dreaming and I have big plans," said Garcia.
Homeland Security officials say applications can be denied, but information on all applications will not be shared with enforcement agencies.
A full list of requirements and the application can be found at USCIS.gov/childhoodarrivals.