More than 50,000 students in North Carolina will benefit from the Obama administration's suspension of deportations of qualified undocumented youths, Mexico's consul-general for the Carolinas said Wednesday.
"It could be even more," Carlos Flores Vizcarra told Efe.
Since October 2009, Flores has headed the consulate in Raleigh that serves more than 550,000 Mexicans in North and South Carolina.
"We must get ready to process documents like passports that young people will need when the process of applying for immigration protection begins," he said Wednesday at the monthly luncheon for members of the Latin American Chamber of Commerce in Charlotte.
According to Flores, the Carolinas have one of the busiest of the 50 Mexican consulates in the United States with an average of 300 people visiting it daily.
"We estimate that we'll attend to some 500 visitors a day when young people start filling out their applications," the consul general said.
Young immigrants in North Carolina who would benefit from the long-stalled DREAM Act, represented by groups like NC DREAM Team, have been extremely active in the struggle to get the legislation passed and in bringing pressure to bear on President Barack Obama to issue an executive order to stop deportations.
Together with acts of civil disobedience that led to the arrest of several of its leaders, plus hunger strikes and the beaming of messages over social networks, the "dreamers" even protested last week in front of Obama's campaign office in Charlotte, which will host the Democratic National Convention in September.
Though the news provided the dreamers with some relief, some were skeptical because, in the words of one, "there's a big difference between what the Obama administration says and what local immigration authorities can put into practice."
"Until I have my permit in my hand I won't believe it," Viridiana Martinez, the co-founder of the NC DREAM Team who was arrested in protests in Charlotte and Atlanta, told Efe.
"They've said in the past that, at their discretion, they would not deport the undocumented who had committed minor offenses, but many dreamers are no longer with us," she said.
According to Immigration Policy Center estimates, the number of North Carolina immigrants with a high school education increased by 86.3 percent between 2000 and 2009.
To qualify for relief under the new policy, immigrants must be 30 or under and be able to prove they entered the United States before the age of 16 and that they have lived in the country for at least five years.
Applicants must also be enrolled in school or have a high school diploma or GED, or have been honorably discharged from the Armed Forces or Coast Guard.
Anyone convicted of a felony or multiple misdemeanors will not be eligible for suspension of deportation.