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Monday, October 15, 2012 - 12:10pm

Undocumented Georgians Applying To Stay

Thousands of undocumented Georgians are applying for deferred access status under a controversial program Pres. Obama announced in June. It will spare some immigrants from deportation for two years. And it will affect many young people whose legal status has kept them in limbo.

Deferred access status will give young immigrants a chance to apply for work permits and a driver’s license.

Those eligible to apply must have entered the U.S. before turning 16, be 30 years old or younger, and without a criminal record.

Karen Vigueras lives in Tiger in Rabun County. Her parents brought her here from Mexico when she was eight.

She’s already received deferred status and says it’ll allow her to get on with her life by going back to school and finding a job to pay for her studies.

“I felt like my life was stuck," she said in an interview. "Right after I graduated high school, I really couldn’t do much. I couldn’t really afford college – not even the community college because they charge us twice the in-state tuition. So my life was really on hold for the past two years.”

Georgia has about 400,000 undocumented residents, and about 24,000 can apply for deferred status.

About 24,000 of Georgia’s 400,000 undocumented residents can apply for the deferred action status program.

But not everyone who’s eligible is applying. Some say the fee is too high. Others are having trouble assembling all of the documents.

Georgina Perez grew up in Marietta, after her family brought her here from Mexico. She can’t afford the $465 application fee.

“I’ve been here since I was three years old so I’m 23 so 20 years here. I’m not leaving," she said. "I’m trying to see how I can get the money. I’m not sure what’s going to happen but I’m not going to leave just like that.”

The program doesn’t change a 2011 Georgia law that bars most employers from hiring illegal immigrants.