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St. Louis DACA Attorney Jim Hacking Discusses How the Program is Changing Lives

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Eren Sanchez is one of the very first young undocumented immigrants to receive a temporary work visa. Sanchez, 24, is finally beginning to do all the things that she missed out on growing up without legal status.

Temporary work visas available under the Obama Administration

Sanchez is among the 55,000 young immigrants who have received two-year visas within the past year. These permits are part of a federal program for people who are between the ages of 15 and 30 and have grown up in the U.S. but arrived illegally as children. Under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, about 950,000 immigrants nationwide are eligible to receive these visas.

Sanchez was finally given the opportunity to open her first credit card, study for the ACT and learn how to drive. "I'm doing stuff my friends did years ago," Sanchez said. In order to qualify, the individual must be in school or have graduated from high school. This excludes those who have been convicted of serious crimes or have at least three misdemeanors. Unfortunately, immigration advocates warn undocumented immigrants not to get too comfortable with these temporary visas. They can change under future administrations and there is no guarantee that they will be continued in the future. This is one of the reasons why Congress is being pressured to make a decision that would unify immigration law nationwide.

Visa program only a temporary solution for youth

Critics mainly focus on the instability of the program. There is no security for the young people trying to build their lives and plan for the long term.  Additionally, the situation remains different depending on the state immigrants live in. Iowa, for example, has a lot less hurdles than other states.

Arizona, alternatively, has barred visa recipients from even getting a driver’s license and paying discounted tuition at in state universities. Immigrants like Sanchez will be stuck having to look for private scholarships or take out large student loans because they are not eligible for financial aid. "We're just bleeding the potential of these really talented young people," said Joa LaVille, an immigrant advocate in Marshalltown. "They're homegrown. It's what we're looking for." Applicants for this type of visa will have to pay $465 and provide proof of identity and eligibility.

If you have questions regarding DACA, applying for a visa or the changing immigration laws, contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.

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