Florida has become a powerful voice in the debate over whether undocumented immigrants should be given a legal residency status. Many of these immigrants are hopeful that the DREAM Act will lead to further changes and new laws that will enable them to claim permanent residency and eventually become U.S. citizens. Still, there is the possibility, until such changes are made, that they will be taken into federal custody and deported.
When people read about undocumented immigrants, their first impression may be that these immigrants are primarily agricultural workers. While this may be true for older immigrants, younger undocumented immigrants in Miami and elsewhere are seeking higher education, attending U.S. universities and hoping to enter the professional workforce. With the potential of the DREAM Act -- an immigration program designed to assist children who were brought to the country illegally -- to someday become law, these people have been given a glimmer of hope that someday they will be able to work in any industry or profession that they wish.
In the past, many undocumented immigrant students had difficulty enrolling in higher education. Since Obama created the DREAMers program, more American immigrant students are finding opportunities, including scholarships. The University of California, Berkeley has announced that it will create a $1 million scholarship fund for undocumented immigrant students. This is the largest fund dedicated to helping DREAMers. Similar scholarships and funding could soon be available to students in Miami, Florida and nationwide.
Since Obama's deferred action immigration policy passed, 180,000 immigrants have applied for consideration and 4,591 have been approved since Oct. 10. The program could change the lives of hundreds of thousands of immigrants who were brought into the United States as children.
According to recent reports, less than 15 percent of young immigrants have applied for Obama's deferred action plan that would allow them to remain in the country for two years with the possibility of obtaining a work permit. Of the 1.3 million young immigrants who would qualify for the plan that took effect in August, 100,000 of these potential applicants reside in Florida.
Many children are brought to the United States illegally and do not discover until later in life that they are not U.S. citizens. A special visa program has helped 10,000 young illegal immigrants become permanent residents since 1997. Applicants for this visa program must be under 21, unmarried, and a dependent of the state at the time of application.
Immigration laws are always evolving and changing, sometimes bringing new opportunities and hope. President Obama has initiated a new program to give young immigrants with no criminal record and who have completed some college or military service, the opportunity to defer deportation proceedings. Now, hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants in who were brought to the country as children can start the application process for a deportation reprieve.