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Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - Page updated at 01:00 p.m.

Waivers point young illegal immigrants toward a dream

Young adults brought to the U.S. illegally as infants and children should emerge from the shadows and take advantage of an Obama administration temporary waiver on deportations.

Wednesday begins the application period. Applicants must be younger than 30 and have been brought to this country before they were 16. They must have lived here for at least five years, have no criminal history, and either graduated from high school, earned a GED or served in the military.

An estimated 30,000 young people in Washington state can apply. The welcome shift in the otherwise moribund immigration-reform debate is an opportunity to bolster our struggling economy with highly motivated students looking to contribute with their full complement of knowledge and skills.

These young people were brought here as small children and have worked hard to live up to America's ideals of assimilation and diversity. These individuals are as entwined in the fabric of their communities as the rest of us. They must not be forced to leave their families and return to a country they barely remember.

Without legal status, these young people are unable to get a work permit. Their dreams, through no fault of their own, were deferred. Until now.

President Obama signed the executive order for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Process in June. Applying for the waiver is a gamble for young people here illegally. The legal status is good for only two years and it is not the same as a green card.

In two years time, Congress should pass the DREAM Act, opening a path to citizenship for these young people, or they might find themselves back where they started: undocumented and fearful of deportation.

The DREAM Act is the ultimate goal. President Obama's waiver is an acceptable down payment on the dream.

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