A chance to attain legal status

  • Mary Lowe, left, of Catholic Charities prescreens Jesus Bautista, 17, center and his sister Karen Bautista, 19, right, during a workshop held at the Airway Ct. facility. The workshop was held to help start gathering paperwork needed for when applications become available under Obama's policy directive allowing certain illegal immigrants to apply for permission to stay in the United States for two years and receive work permits without fear of deportation.

They have been called "Dreamers," and Saturday, with their nerves on edge, they filled a conference room at Catholic Charities in Santa Rosa.

They all lack legal permission to be in the United States and, if discovered, face deportation to a country most have long forgotten or never really knew.

They were gathered to learn if they are covered by a new presidential order that would allow them to apply for a work permit and lift that threat.

"I'm very happy, excited, nervous — it's something I never expected to happen," said Loreli Colon, 26, of Sonoma. Her parents brought her to the United States from Mexico when she was 10, she said.

Nearby, Anna, of Santa Rosa, sat with Jorge, 20, a UCDavis student.

"His dreams can come true," she said of her son, whom she brought to Santa Rosa from Guadalajara when he was 2-years-old. She was one of many parents who accompanied their children Saturday and did not want her surname used.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was established in June by President Barack Obama's executive order. An estimated <NO1><NO>one million people nationally fall into the eligible age bracket — <NO1><NO>from the ages of 15 to 31.

The application process starts Wednesday.

The program is aimed at people who entered the United States illegally before they were 16 and have lived here for five consecutive years, pass a criminal background check and are in high school, have graduated or have a GED.

In Sonoma County, about 700 people have attended workshops by Catholic Charities or other groups like the Committee for Immigrant Rights.

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