LANGLEY PARK, Md. – Illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children can now apply for a renewable, two-year temporary work visa allowing them to work without fear of deportation.
The first in a series of workshops to help immigrants in the D.C. region apply drew a huge crowd.
“I can’t drive because I don’t have papers so that’s why I’m here,” says 17- year-old Cesar, who arrived in the U.S. from Guatamala when he was about 10.
He says he wants a good steady job and is interested in becoming an auto mechanic.
“Even though I’m not, I consider myself a citizen. I’m accustomed to the life here,” Cesar says.
He was among those in line Wednesday at Casa de Maryland‘s multicultural center in Langley Park, where volunteers and lawyers helped immigrants eager to apply for the program fill out forms and submit them.
The application fee is $465, but Casa is only charging an additional $25 for its legal and filing services. This way, applicants don’t have to spend even more money hiring their own lawyers to help them through the process.
Also in line was 22-year-old Priscilla, who arrived from Costa Rica when she was 12.
She plans to start college soon and wants to become a pediatrician.
“Ten years living here, and now I can get the permit to work and get your license and everything. So, it’s exciting,” Priscilla says.
Vanessa, 20, is a citizen whose parents are from El Salvador, but she came to the clinic because her husband from Honduras is not.
“He wants to get out of construction. He wants to join the military, and so that’s his dream,” she says.
“Back in our countries it’s just like really poor living over there. And you don’t like to live there, you want to be the best you can be and get the best for your children and stuff,” Vanessa says.
Casa de Maryland will hold these workshops from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesdays and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays for the forseeable future.
Casa’s Executive Director Gustavo Torres says the goal is to help 10,000 through the process, but says there is more work to be done.
“We need to fight for comprehensive immigration reform for your parents, your friends, your family, and everybody,” Torres told the crowd that gathered in front of the building before the clinic began.