For young immigrants, a delayed coming of age
MIAMI – As a child, Jorge Tume used to sit and do homework as his parents cleaned the desks and floors of a concrete company in Miami. When he was done, he’d take out the trash and help finish cleaning.
Tume’s parents brought him to the U.S. from Peru with his younger brother when he was 12. They came on tourist visas and then stayed in the country illegally when their visas expired.
After he graduated from high school, Tume had few job prospects. So he did what his parents did: Cleaned offices, washed cars and picked up odd jobs.
Now, one year after President Barack Obama announced that young people brought to the country as children and living in the U.S. illegally would be allowed to stay and work if they met certain criteria, Tume’s life looks decidedly different: He’s behind a computer filing notices for liens at the concrete company he once helped his parents clean.
“I know every corner of this office, this building,” said Tume, 21. “I used to see other people do the job that I’m doing now. And I’m sitting here now working.”
Nearly 300,000 young adults previously living illegally in the United States have been granted permission to stay and work through the program, one of the most significant shifts in immigration policy in recent decades. Some 200,000 more have submitted applications. For those immigrants, the last year has been a sort of delayed coming of age: Leaning how to drive, getting a license and landing a first job that’s not off the books.
“Now I feel like I’m actually a member of the community like everyone else,” said Frida Ulloa, a 24-year-old student at Florida International University, who came to the U.S. from Peru as a teenager to see her ill father and never went back.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals allows immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children to obtain work permits for two years, which then are eligible for renewal.