Ilda Bustos aspires to be a local social worker.
"My big dream is to help people,” she says. “That's what I want because I know that it's very hard."
But, it’s Bustos who needs help. She’s an undocumented Bakersfield College junior. Her mother brought her to the states from Mexico five years ago when she was 15 years old. She says she’s scared of possibly being deported. That is why she is applying for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program.
It is a means for undocumented immigrants, who entered the United States as children, to be protected from deportation for two years at a time. Bustos went to Andrew Fishkin's law office in Bakersfield Wednesday hoping to find out if she qualifies for the program.
"With this, I hope to be a professional person, get a better job or something and help my family," she says.
Fishkin says his office has been bombarded with people asking whether they qualify for the program.
“It's been crazy since June 15th when the announcement was made," Fishkin says. “Typically, I average five consultations a week for the last seven years. Now, I’m up to 120 consultations and have a two-week waiting list for appointments.”
The Deferred Action program does not give illegal residents a green card, a visa or any legal status, but it does provide a work permit. Bustos says during the school year, she works from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. and then wakes up at 5 a.m. for class.
“I sleep like four hours sometimes, it’s very hard. I’m like a zombie or something in class,” she says. “It's hard because you don't have a card and you don't drive, and you're like oh my gosh, I would like to go to this place but I have to wait.”
During Bustos’ consultation with Fishkin, she was elated to learn she qualified for the program.
“A work authorization card allows them to get a Social Security card, drivers’ license, credit to work and to go to schools. It basically allows them to live out of the shadows,” Fishkin says.
Paola Fernandez says she's been living in the shadows all her life. She is also applying for the Deferred Action program.
"We live in fear of deportation,” she says. “Also, when we get our degree, we're not sure. There's a lot of uncertainty because we're not sure if we're able to get jobs that are a part of the formal market."
Fernandez came to the states when she was four years old. Now, a senior at CSUB, she hopes to one day be an immigration attorney. “The hope is that this will allow people to realize that we are able to contribute,” she says. “That will make it easier in order for them to pass the Dream Act.”
Here's who qualifies:
People between the ages of 15 and 30, who arrived in the U.S.
People living in the U.S. continuously for at least five years.
Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent or have served in the military.
Applicants must have a clean record.
"This is probably the most complex part of the program,” Fishkin says. “A clean criminal history doesn't mean you've never been arrested. A clean history means you have no felonies, you do not have three or more misdemeanors or any serious misdemeanors."
There is a $465 application fee, and Fishkin says applicants must complete their applications correctly the first time because if it's denied, they cannot appeal the decision.