Immigrants seeking work permits get legal advice

June 19, 2012 3:20:56 PM PDT
Just days after President Barack Obama announced a historic and controversial shift in immigration policy, undocumented immigrants are lining up to get advice on how their lives could change significantly as a result.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston is known for offering free immigration legal counseling to local residents. The organization hosted an event Tuesday for those seeking information on whether they may qualify for work permits.

Walking with his head held high, one college student told us he's never been happier.

"It's just awesome that I'll be able to contribute, give back to this country that has given us so much," he said.

He's been in this country illegally since he was five, but now he and hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants may be eligible for temporary work permits.

They just have to figure out how to apply.

"People in general don't really understand the system. They're very afraid. They've spent their lives living in the shadows, afraid to come to the attention of the authorities," said Wafa Abdin, legal director at Catholic Charities

Abdin added that some people worry the whole policy change is a trick.

"I've been hearing from people that maybe they're just collecting our names so that we can be deported later on, so some people are really afraid to come forward and even benefit from the law," Abdin said.

The government won't release specifics for at least sixty days. Still, those in this crowd want to be ready.

Some took notes. Others raised their hands and asked questions or scheduled one-on-one meetings for their specific questions.

"They want to get started right away but there's no way to," Abdin said. "The process is going to be different for each group and what the requirements are."

The most common question we heard: what do you do if you're being deported already? There is no answer to that yet.

Catholic Charities says they will continue offering legal advice to immigrants and answering questions as additional details of the plan are released. For more information, visit

Please stay with Eyewitness News and as we continue following this developing story and how it impacts the local population.

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