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Laura, the mother of a little girl, is working toward a degree in human services. She has lived in the United States since she was two years old, but as an undocumented immigrant, she’s ineligible for government financial aid, including loans. She makes her tuition payments in cash.

She says she “couldn’t believe it” when she heard the news about Deferred Action.

The new program announced by the Obama administration in June allows undocumented immigrant youth—Dreamers—to live in the United States without fear of deportation for the next two years and to obtain work permits on a renewable basis as long as they meet certain criteria.

For Laura, Deferred Action means she can take a job in human services, her field of study.

“I’m very happy that we’ve been given this opportunity to show our potential and that we belong here,” Laura says. “I don’t know what I would do if I had to go back; I’d be lost.”

She was among 80 immigrants who came to a legal clinic in Des Moines, where AFSC and Justice for Our Neighbors, aided by 30 volunteers, provided assistance in applying for the program. (See photos from the clinic.)

“I think Deferred Action is lot better for the country,” says high school student Jose, who also attended the clinic. He’s lived in the United States since the fourth grade.

Today, he plays on his school’s football team and is an aspiring engineer.

“There are a lot of kids like me who just want an education, to go to college and have a good future,” he says.

Deferred Action falls far short of providing a pathway to citizenship, which AFSC and others will continue working toward. But the program represents a significant step forward for Laura, Jose, and thousands of young people brought to the United States by their parents.

Want to get involved?  See our resources for immigrant allies.

Author: 
Jon Krieg and Neah Monteiro