Published August 15, 2012
Young illegal immigrants are lining up by the thousands at consulates across the country to take advantage of the Obama administration program allowing them to apply for a two-year reprieve from deportation.
As many as 1.8 million undocumented immigrants could be eligible for the program, which kicked off Wednesday. Under the new rules, applicants can fill out a six-page form, pay a $465 fee and submit documents proving their identity in order to qualify.
Immigration officials say the documents will be closely scrutinized, given the potential for fraud, but there is no uniform standard. Applicants are supposed to show they arrived in the U.S. before they were 16, and that they're enrolled in school or vocational training, or have a high school degree.
The lines began forming on Tuesday, as illegal immigrants tried to get a leg up in seeking their passport applications.
"We are waiting for our passports. We want to get our passport because Obama might be asking for them," applicant Kristi Alarcon told MyFoxHouston, as she stood in line outside Houston's Mexican consulate.
According to MyFox Los Angeles, advocates were holding workshops in Los Angeles Wednesday on how to apply.
The crowds Tuesday and Wednesday are the most visible demonstration to date of how many people are interested in applying for the administration's new reprieve program -- which is effectively a version of the DREAM Act, which failed to clear Congress.
The requirements are not quite as stringent as those in the original DREAM Act.
Applicants must be in school, or have a high school diploma or GED -- or be a military veteran. They can't have a felony record, but a record with fewer than three minor misdemeanors is not disqualifying.
Under the DREAM Act, applicants needed to not only show a high school diploma or GED, but after a six-year period they had to show they had attended college or served in the military for at least two years.
Republican lawmakers have accused Obama of circumventing Congress with the new program in an effort to boost his political standing and of favoring illegal immigrants over unemployed U.S. citizens.
Some, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, have called the policy backdoor amnesty and said they worry about fraud.
"While potentially millions of illegal immigrants will be permitted to compete with American workers for scarce jobs, there seems to be little if any mechanism in place for vetting fraudulent applications and documentation submitted by illegal immigrants," Smith said Tuesday.
Homeland Security announced the details Tuesday of what documents illegal immigrants would need to prove that they are eligible for the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The announcement came a day before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was set to begin letting people apply for the program.
The program is beginning just months before what promises to be a tight contest for the White House in which the Hispanic vote may play an important role.
Obama has come under fire from Hispanic voters and others who say he hasn't fulfilled a previous campaign promise to overhaul the nation's immigration laws.
Fox News' Catherine Herridge and The Associated Press contributed to this report.