Hundreds Of Undocumented Houstonians Prepare To Apply For Immigration Program

At Catholic Charities downtown, dozens of people are already waiting and asking questions. It's an hour before a help session on the new Obama administration program. Maria Mitchell is a staff attorney with the organization. Mitchell says more than 700 people have come to their offices since the program was announced in June.

"I've been in Catholic Charities for six years, and this is the busiest time that I have experienced here."

The program's for qualifying illegal immigrants that came as children. They had to be under 31 years old when the initiative was announced. Some immigration experts estimate that around 200,000 people in Texas may qualify. 

While the program gives temporary work permits, Mitchell says, the program does not give permanent legal status.

"It is not a law. It's just a directive from the administration. It could end at any time. Of course, right now, it's saying option to renew every two years, but obviously, we don't know how long this will continue."

But the fact that it's not permanent isn't stopping twenty-one-year-old Cesar Muratalla from planning to apply. He came from Mexico to Houston almost two decades ago. He says getting temporary relief means that he can go on with his life.

"Once I get this, the first thing is since I'm going to get a two-year working permit. What I plan on doing is first getting my license, then get a better job, and start college.  Hopefully, I get financial help." 

Muratalla says since the announcement earlier this summer, he's been checking for updates on immigration websites almost every day. 

Toni Alvarenga-Watkins, a case worker with Catholic Charities, says lots of people are eager to apply.  Her best advice to them is be patient.

"If they get desperate, and [they] want to do it right away. They want to be the first applicant, that can damage the opportunity. Because if they do something wrong, it's only [a] one-time shot."

Alvarenga-Watkins says she's already got her first appointment this Friday. 

"She called me on June 15, 2012.  The way she said it is, 'Toni, is this something that will help DREAMers like me, and I say, 'Yes.'"

With proper documents and a $465 application fee, her client will be ready to submit her application.

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