(CNN) – Hundreds of thousands of people who entered the United States as children but without documentation can apply - beginning Wednesday - to remain in and work in the country without fear of deportation for at least two years.
The form, titled "Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals," was dated August 15, 2012 and bore the expiration date of February 28, 2013. The director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said Tuesday that applicants who have not committed major crimes can apply without fear of deportation.
"This afternoon, USCIS makes available online the forms and instructions for individuals who will request deferred action for childhood arrivals," Director Alejandro Mayorkas said in a conference call.
The announcement comes two months after Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that people who arrived in the United States as children may request consideration of deferred action for a period of two years subject to renewal, and would then be eligible for work authorization.
This morning on "Early Start," Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Immigration Task Force, explains why it's such an important program.
SAMBOLIN: I know you worked tirelessly on the DREAM Act and championing the rights of these young people in particular. In today, you have a forum designed to have these kids come forth and potentially pill out this paperwork.
Some people are saying that this going to create a database available to the federal government of undocumented kids. Why would you say this is such a good idea?
"What we're attempting to do is take about 2 million young people and try to make some symmetry," Rep. Gutierrez says. "They are really much more American than they are immigrant. And today, we're going to begin the process where their status, their immigration status and reality of their American life and their American being, that there's symmetry and parity between the two."
When asked about the threat of deportation despite the program, Gutierrez says young people shouldn't be scared.
"Young people are brave and by showing up in line, they are changing and making the process irreversible," he says. "There is no one that is going to take away those work permits, those Social Security cards, those driver's license and their future of being an American for them once they step forward."