CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Starting Wednesday, hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants can apply to stay and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation for at least two years.
The program is called "Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals." It was created in June under an executive order signed by President Barack Obama.
According to the Latin American Coalition, there are 31,000 undocumented immigrants eligible for deferred action in North Carolina. Nearly half of those are estimated to be in the greater Charlotte area.
For many of the people Eyewitness News spoke to Wednesday, the application to apply for deferred action is the beginning of a change in the right direction. Daily Geneaux, 21, and Christian Yanez, 19, stopped by the Latin American Coalition in Charlotte on Wednesday hoping to fill out their application.
"It means a lot to me to be able to go to school and to work here," said Geneaux.
Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for in-state tuition, they can't get a driver's license, legally work in the U.S. and they can get deported. But the form titled "Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals" turns all that around.
"I'm so excited. I'll be able to do more stuff now that I get this chance."
Latin American Coalition Executive Director Jess George said this is an opportunity every undocumented immigrant deserves.
"They're human beings, they deserve the chance at the American dream," said George.
People younger than 30 who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16, pose no criminal or security threat and were successful students or served in the military can apply. It in no way provides a shortcut to permanent residency or citizenship.
President Obama said the changes would make immigration policy more fair, efficient and just.
State Rep. Harry Warren of Rowan County calls the plan "ill conceived." In a statement, he said, "The Obama administration clearly does not understand that the first step in addressing the issue of illegal immigration is to secure the border."
After the two years are up, since there isn't a permanent reform policy in place at this time, advocates for it are hoping that the application is renewable.
If you'd like to apply, or know someone who would, the Latin American Coalition is holding informational sessions Thursday at 2 p.m. and at 3:45 p.m. They will also be helping people fill out the application on Saturday.
The center is at 4938 Central Avenue, Suite 101 Charlotte, NC 28205. For more information, call 704-941-2549.