Deferred Action Program gives illegal immigrants hope

As of Wednesday, illegal immigrants between the ages of 15 and 30 who meet the requirements can apply for the Deferred Action Program and be safe from deportation for two years.

The program is part of President Obama's Dream Act, which is meant to help illegal immigrant students stay in the country.

For Illegal Immigrant Jesus Leon, the program could mean eventual citizenship. That, in turn, could lead to him seeing his parents and siblings for the first time in years. Leon's parents brought him and his brothers and sisters into the country illegally when Leon was just four years old. Six years ago, his mother was deported.

"They told us it was for a better life for us," Leon said. "At the time, it was five of us and they were struggling to take care of all of us. When my mom got deported, she left with the three youngest ones. She left and about two to three weeks later, my dad left, as well."

Leon found himself dealing with the challenges illegals face every day. U.S. Citizen Geovanni Cruz has friends who are illegals, and he said there are many obstacles holding them back.

"Not being able to get a license or even an ID, not being able to set up bank accounts or take out loans, get a car..."

Liz Rascon is also an American citizen. Her parents and brother, however, fought to get to the states. As soon as they did, they were deported.

"They crossed the border and they walked for 12 days and 12 nights," she stated.

Some illegal immigrants like Keila Linscomb are more fortunate. Linscomb attended college and earned her Master's degree. But her illegal status still holds her back.

"There's a lot of U.S. citizens that have the opportunity to do that [get an education] and they don't want to," she pointed out. And all we want to do is have a chance. We are very grateful to the people that help us. Some people take that for granted- we don't."

For Leon, education is the next step. He has graduated from high school and is now in the process of applying to Amarillo College.

"I'm not a bad person," he said. "I've never been in a gang. I don't do drugs. I just work and go to school. And that's all I want to do is get an education and give back to the community."

Leon is also applying for the Deferred Action Program- his hope for a better future, a future his parents would be proud of.

"I've always had hope that one day I'll get to see them. I want to show them that everything they did for me wasn't for nothing."

A "Dreamers" Information Session will be hosted at the Wesley Community Center on Saturday, Aug. 18, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The forum is free to anyone in attendance. Information about deferred action will be available, as well as information about legal aid for those applying. Anyone with questions is encouraged to contact Wesley Community Center at 806-372-7960.

Basic eligibility for the Deferred Action Program is as follows:

-Entered U.S. before age 16 and before June 15, 2012

-Currently at least 15 years old and born after June 15, 1982

-Continuously resided in U.S. for five years and present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012

-Currently in school, have graduated from high school or obtained GED, or have been honorably discharged from the military

-Not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor or three or more misdemeanors

-Not pose a threat to national security or public safety