TULSA, Okla. - A new immigration policy that took effect Wednesday could allow more than a million young undocumented immigrants to remain in the country without fear of deportation.
The policy, which was created through executive order by President Barack Obama, allows young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to apply for a two-year deportation deferment or work permit.
To apply, undocumented immigrants must be between 16 and 31 years of age, must be attending or have graduated high school and must have no criminal record.
According to some estimates, as many as 1.7 million immigrants could qualify for the program, including 9,000 who live in Oklahoma.
Guillermo Romero's parents brought him to the U.S. illegally when he was eight.
For Romero, it wasn't a big deal until he got to high school and found out he couldn't get a driver's license or register to vote. When he wanted to go to college, he ran into more challenges.
"It's all these things that start hitting you and you want to sign up for all these scholarships or financial aid or something but you can't because you weren't born here," said Romero. "But it's all I've known."
Romero, who attends Tulsa Community College, wants to eventually be able to attend OSU to study computer engineering.
He's hopeful the new immigration policy will allow him to move forward without fear of being deported.
On Wednesday night, he attended an informational meeting hosted by Dream Act Oklahoma, a youth-led coalition that is affiliated with the United We Dream campaign.
A huge crowd showed up to the meeting, a much bigger turnout than organizers were expecting.
Tracey Madina, with Dream Act Oklahoma, says the new immigration policy is bringing people out of the shadows, many for the first time.
The application process is lengthy and there are no guarantees.
Madina said there is only one opportunity to apply.
The application fee is also expensive.
"The application fee is $465," said Madina. "That's not including the lawyer, if there were to pay for a lawyer. The lawyer is anywhere from $500 to $2,000."
For young people like Romero, it's a small price to pay.
"It's expensive, but it's for my future. It's something good...finally to become legal," said Romero.
Critics denounce the new policy, calling it backdoor amnesty.
They also say it will harm the job market because the immigrants will take opportunities away from young Americans.
Because it was created through executive order, and not a legislative act, the policy can be overturned by another president.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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