Young illegal immigrants in the United States are lining up to register for a new program that could keep them from being deported.
The government’s so-called Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program took effect on Wednesday.
The program allows young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents to temporarily remain in the country and work, without fear of deportation, if they meet certain requirements.
Those requirements include being a student or serving in the military, and posing no criminal or security threat.
Also, applicants must be under the age of 31 and must have arrived in the U.S. before turning 16.
The Migration Policy Institute estimates as many as 1.8 million immigrants may be eligible. But group spokeswoman Michelle Mittelstadt tells VOA some potential applicants are worried about revealing their status.
“There also is a concern among some that if they come forward and identify themselves to the government as being here illegally and they have to provide things like their names and their address, that they are potentially exposing themselves and risking exposing themselves for deportation and removal down the road,” said Mittelstadt.
Opponents of the policy say it amounts to amnesty. Jack Martin of the Federation for American Immigration Reform also says program recipients could wind up taking jobs from U.S. citizens at a time when the economy has not fully recovered.
“That is a special issue of concern with an estimated 1.8 million individuals who may be receiving work permits at a time when we have many millions of Americans who are unemployed,” said Martin.
Illegal immigration is a controversial issue in the U.S. Some opponents say illegal immigration forces the government to spend money on social programs for aliens that otherwise could be used to help U.S. citizens.