Lufkin church expects to help hundreds of 'Dreamers' apply for work permits

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Here in East Texas the first "dreamers" began filling out what's commonly referred to as 'DREAM' applications, even though the "deferred action" program is an alternative to the DREAM act. That legislation has been stalled in Congress for years.

The alternative program is still providing hopes and dreams for young people who really know only East Texas.

Victor Hinjosa, 21,  is a Lufkin high school graduate and attends Angelina College when he has the tuition. It's the dream his mother had for her 12 year old son when the family came to the U.S. for a visit, but never left.

"I lived in my other country and it was hard. It was tough. I see this life is better," said Hinjosa.

Victor gathered up diplomas, documents and $465 for the application fee. He wants a two year work permit. He calls it "a tool" to reach an admirable goal.

"I want to go to a Bible school and I want to study to be an evangelist. I want to travel the world spreading the word of God," said Hinjosa.

Pastor Carlos Algeria anticipates helping hundreds of East Texans who came to the U.S. before age 16 and have yet turned 31. They must be in school or a graduate with no felony criminal record.    The certified immigration support provider charges no one.

"I estimate that probably in all East Texas there should be about 2500 kids," said Alegria.

The estimation is based, in part, to interest in an information meeting last month.

"Over 600 people showed up," recalled Alegria.

Some young people are seeking the help of attorneys. Richard Fischer, an immigration attorney in Nacogdoches, is taking 30 minute appointments all day long, according to a staffer. He's booked until the first of October.

Southside Baptist Church added a new phone line to accommodate all the questions.

"It's not an inconvenience at all," said Chase Sims, a pastor for students. "We're just trying to take some steps where we can be more effective in connecting and ministering to them."

Southside Baptist Church requested applicants not to come Wednesday because of church Wednesday night. Thursday, Friday and especially Saturday hundreds of applicants are expected.

The application review will take several months for immigration services to complete.

Applicants are warned of fraudulent immigration providers and told what the work permit is not.

"It is not a path to the legalization. It is not a path to U.S. citizenship," shared Alegria.

Austin immigration attorney Mo Goldman gives stronger advice.

"The individuals who apply are basically exposing themselves to the federal government and saying, 'Hey, I'm in the United States. I don't have legal status, but I would like to get this work permission.'"

Applicants learn President Obama's executive action is only a temporary measure. A different administration could make the newfound status go away.

"Anybody would be concerned about that, like worry, but I'm going to trust in god that he is going to put his hand on my life and do the right thing for me," said Hinjosa.

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