Thousands began lining up Tuesday evening at Navy Pier for what's being dubbed DREAM Relief Day, the first opportunity for undocumented immigrant youth to apply for a temporary deportation deferral.
The day is part of the Homeland Security Department's new initiative that creates a path for undocumented youth brought into the United States illegally as children to remain in the country, the Chicago Tribune reports.
In order to be eligible for the program, applicants must provide proof that they arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16, that they are currently 30 or younger and that they have been living in the country for at least five years. Further, they must be in school, graduated or have served in the military and cannot have certain types of convictions on their record, according to the Tribune.
The initiative was outlined in a policy change announced by the Obama administration in June and recently touted in a Spanish-language campaign ad.
"In the face of a Congress that refuses to do anything on immigration, we announced we're lifting the shadow of deportation from deserving young people who were brought to this country as children," President Barack Obama said in the ad.
At least 5,000 youth lined up at Navy Pier in order to attend a workshop outlining the process of applying for their work permits, as well as the ability to apply for drivers' licenses or state identification cards, Fox Chicago reports.
"It's an opportunity that we've been waiting for basically for a really long time and finally it's here," applicant Edalid Miranda told NBC Chicago.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) are expected to be on hand at Navy Pier Wednesday to announce about $250,000 in private donations to the Illinois Dream Fund, which will help many undocumented youth partake in the City Colleges of Chicago’s College to Career program, according to CBS Chicago.
"This is the most important development in two decades for undocumented immigrants and we intend to get as many young people as are eligible signed up and in the system," Gutierrez previously said of the initiative, which is being led locally by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.
The Obama administration has stated that the initiative won't lead to citizenship, ABC Chicago reports.