MORRISTOWN (WATE) - Members of a Hamblen County church are helping illegal immigrants apply for a two-year grace period to live and work in this country.
President Obama signed in June an executive order giving younger illegal immigrants the opportunity to apply for a federal program that allows them to stay legally while they apply for citizenship.
The Differed Action Plan went into effect Wednesday, but people were able to download an online application Thursday.
The application process is complicated, so Great Commission Baptist Church Pastor William Burton decided to hold a workshop Thursday to help people apply correctly.
"We've been looking at this for two weeks solid just trying to figure it out and understand all the jargon," Burton said.
The plan gives illegal immigrants from the ages of 15 to 30, who entered the U.S. under the age of 16 with their parents, two years to remain in the U.S while they apply for citizenship.
"It's deferring their deportation for two years and also gives them a two-year permission to work in the U.S.," Burton said.
The application requires using a black ink pen. All papers must be in order or the application will be rejected. There is also a $465 application fee.
Efrain Ramos, 21, who came to the U.S. from Mexico when he was two, says the result is worth the trouble.
"[Not having legal status] hurts me because I want to be something, and do something in my life," said Ramos. "I see some of the doors are closed."
Illegal immigrants cannot get financial aid for college, it is hard for them to find a job, and they cannot get a driver's license.
"I would like to get my driver's license. Everyone at school does," said 16-year-old Mara Gonzalez, who came to the U.S. from Mexico when she was a baby. "It's not like I'm embarrassed to be Hispanic. When people ask you why don't you have your permit? Why can't you drive to school? I don't really want to tell them because people are rude."
Ramos and Gonzalez say they are both excited to have an opportunity to fulfill their dreams.
"I'm nervous," said Gonzalez. "I hope they accept. I'm already a junior in school. I get to start applying to colleges. It would be a good thing to get a scholarship."
"It's a door that's slightly open," said Ramos, "All I have to do is knock. If it opens it will be an opportunity."
Burton says most people who are eligible are excited about the opportunity, but he feels some will not want to let the government know they are illegal.
"I believe there will be some people that will not take advantage of this opportunity because of that fear," said Burton. "There's that mistrust that's there."
People interested in applying have until February 28, 2013 to submit their application.
Burton says they are planning to hold another workshop Friday night to continue to help people fill out the application.