More than 1.7 million young, undocumented immigrants will become eligible to apply for immigration benefits today as President Obama’s deferred action plan goes into effect.   This action is the biggest expansion of immigration in decades.


In June of this year, President Obama announced the start of a program that would halt the deportation of qualified, undocumented individuals under the age of 31.  Since the announcement,  the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has been working to create the process and materials required to begin accepting applications. Still, there was much disbelief by the immigrant community that this policy would actually move forward. A surprising announcement came yesterday when USCIS released the procedures and applications for deferred action.


Isabel Cueva, an immigration attorney in Orange County, California, said her office is already sending out dozens of applications in the next couple of days. “A lot of clients came to us shortly after the announcement, and they will be at the front of the application line.”  Ms. Cueva urges everyone eligible to take advantage of this new policy, and fast. “I expect interest to swell even more once others see friends and family members benefiting from the policy,” said Ms. Cueva.  “The more applicants, the bigger the backlog, so you want to make sure you don’t delay in starting the process.”


There are some immigrants that are still apprehensive about coming out and affirmatively identifying themselves as undocumented. Ms. Cueva believes the more people that apply for this program, the more likely something more will come out of it, such as passage of the Dream Act – a more permanent solution for these young individuals. “If we have millions of immigrant youth standing together, it will be nearly impossible for any future Presidency to take away this benefit. The more applicants we have, the more protected this benefit will become,” said Ms. Cueva.


In almost all cases, evidence such as financial documents and school records will be required at the time of the application.  These attachments are as important as properly completing the multiple forms the process requires.  For this reason it is important to seek the assistance of an immigration attorney experienced in interacting with USCIS.  DREAMers who think they may be eligible for Deferred Action should consult with a qualified immigration attorney to discuss the application process and procedures.


Isabel Cueva is a licensed U.S. Immigration Attorney and Associate at Higbee & Associates located in Santa Ana, CA. She can be reached at 714-617-8395.