Dreams of becoming a civil engineer seem finally in reach for a Hammond 19-year-old who moved with her parents from Mexico to the U.S. at age 9.
A 2011 honors graduate of a high school in Hammond, she does volunteer work and attends college classes, but without legal status, or a Social Security number, has not held a job.
"I don't want to do anything I'm not supposed to," said the woman, who asked that her name not be used because of the sensitivity of her immigrant status.
Her hopes soared when the Obama administration announced in June the U.S. would not deport certain undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children and who meet eligibility requirements.
"I saw it online first. I couldn't believe it," she said.
She plans to be among the expected 1 million or more people nationwide to enroll in the program when the window for applications opens today.
Entering the program will open doors, the woman said.
"It means a lot of things. It means I can work now. I can do work-study at school, I can drive. It has a lot of benefits," she said.
She hopes to graduate and find work as a civil engineer.
"I will try to be as good as I can be," she said. "I want to get a job and try to do something that I love."
Eligibility in the program requires an applicant to, among other things, have come to the U.S. before his or her 16th birthday; be at least 15 and no older than 30 as of June 15 and to either be in school or have completed high school or obtained a general education development certificate.
About 100 people attended July workshops in East Chicago put on by the International Institute/LACASA to provide information about the program, organization member Lawrence Sharp said.
The program will affect people who are familiar to Northwest Indiana but may have gone hidden in the past.
"They are a population that lives with us, has assimilated with us, are educated the same as our children and who look like our children," Sharp said. "Now they will have the opportunity to come forward."
More information about the Obama administration's deferred action process for people who are low enforcement priorities is online at www.dhs.gov/deferred-action-process.