Luis Serrano of Longmont speaks at a news conference in support of the new federal program. [CPR Photo]

 

A federal program to let undocumented young people live and work in the US legally for two years began taking applications Wednesday. Estimates suggest 25,000 people in Colorado could qualify. 

Here is a transcript of a report from CPR's Pat Mack:

Reporter Pat Mack: Several pro-immigration groups in Denver held an event Wednesday that was part news conference, part rally. 

Sound of crowd chanting: Undocumented, unafraid.

Reporter: Speakers included Luis Serrano, a 21-year-old who lives in Longmont. He came to the US from Mexico when he was 10 years old.

Luis Serrano: This is great. We have the opportunity to work with a work permit, to get our driver’s license, to drive without fear in the streets, without looking over our shoulder every five minutes that a cop doesn’t come behind us.

Reporter: President Obama announced the program two months ago. It promises not to deport young people who came to the US as children, if they meet certain criteria. Those include being a military veteran, or having a high school diploma or GED, or being enrolled in school. Serrano says his parents, who also live in Colorado, were a little nervous about him stepping forward and admitting his undocumented status.

Serrano: So that’s why my parents are a little scared about it, but they’re proud about it.

Reporter: He says he’ll continue to advocate for a permanent path to citizenship. Critics say the program is an attempt by President Obama to appeal to Hispanics, a key voting bloc in his re-election bid.  They also say the program rewards illegal immigrants with what they call back door amnesty.