Miriam, in pink, wipes tears from her face as the other deferred deportation applicants look on.
  • Miriam, in pink, wipes tears from her face as the other deferred deportation applicants look on.
President Obama's plan to allow undocumented immigrants who grew up here to stay in the country and become productive citizens doesn't have an awesome name. The great new law, just signed into being as an executive order in June, is known by the clunky phrase "deferred deportation."

But it was deferred deportation that brought a group of young Oregonians to tears this morning outside the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement building in NW Portland. There, a group of teens and twentysomthings people who previously lived in constant fear of deportation, people who grew up in Oregon and graduated from high school here but are unable to legally apply for jobs or drivers' licenses, turned in the first applications for a program to become safe from deportation and eligible for a work permit.

"A lot of people take for granted that it's easy to submit a resume. We've been let down so much in the past that it means a lot for us to do something simple like apply for a job," says Miriam, 21, whose parents brought her to the US from Mexico when she was nine months old. Later, in front of the TV cameras, Miriam's voice trembled as she delivered a brief speech before turning in her application. "We are the faces of 1.2 million youth whose lives are about to change for the better. Good things do not come to those who wait. Good things come to those who work hard."

Immigrant rights group CAUSA estimates that there are 16,000 young people in Oregon who qualify for the program. CAUSA and numerous grassroots groups, including many students and young people, have been working toward this day for over 10 years. Still, notes CAUSA's Erik Sorensen, the measure is a "bandaid." And some people won't apply for the program because they have a deep distrust of the federal government. For an undocumented immigrant to turn over all their information to the immigration agency—that's a bit of a leap of faith.

"A lot of people are really feeling excited about this for their kids," says Sorensen. "There is a distrust of enforcement. But according to DHS, they're not using this as a means of tracking people."