OAKLAND, Calif. – "Fiona", 24, was on track to become a scientist after earning a degree from a U.S. university. She knew she had a lot going for her, until she was placed in deportation proceedings two years ago.
"I didn't feel like I had a future. I had a degree that I couldn't use. I had a constant fear of not knowing whether or not I'd be able to stay with my family," the Cebu-born Filipina said.
Fiona came to the U.S. with her family when she was 13. But due to visa complications, she eventually fell out of status.
She was recently given temporary relief from deportation following President Obama's new policy prioritizing the deportation of criminals over undocumented youth.
Because immigration officials already handled her case, she will immediately benefit from the president’s new deferred action policy to allow undocumented youth to legally work in America.
She is scheduled to receive a work permit in the next two to three months.
Undocumented youth who are eligible to benefit from Obama’s new policy will have to submit their applications beginning August 15. They be younger than 30 years old, brought to the US before turning 16 and should have no criminal record.
But immigration rights advocates admit some undocumented students are hesitant to apply because they do not want to risk being deported, in case their application gets rejected.
The Asian Law Caucus said immigration officials have expressed that they will not deport those who just overstayed their visas.
"However, if you have a criminal history that might be the reason that they would put you in removal proceedings," said Attorney Anoop Prasad.
Prasad said immigration officials will likely ask information about the undocumented youth's family members, a concern for some whose family members are also undocumented.
But Prasad said potential applicants should not worry.
"Based on what I've seen from immigration in the past, they don't generally use that information to look for undocumented family members," he said.