A program that helps young illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children is drawing major interest in Atlanta.
The Deferred Action program went into effect Wednesday and hundreds gathered at a northeast Atlanta forum over the weekend to discuss the effort to keep them from being deported.
While the program is not a pathway to a permanent residence or citizenship, several people said it's a step in the right direction.
Roughly 1,000 people filled the lobby of the Latin American Association for the forum to learn more about how the program could keep them in the United States.
Nayali Cordova, a 26-year-old whose family brought her to Atlanta from Mexico when she was 11, said she's ready to start the application process.
"I felt like I was living in a place I called home, but I felt like an outsider for some reason. So, it actually makes me feel more comfortable that I might have a way to feel more at home here," Cordova told Channel 2's Carl Willis.
The Deferred Action program was announced by President Barack Obama's administration in June and went into effect just three days ago on August 15.
The program gives work permits and stops deportations for two years for illegal immigrants who meet certain qualifications.
They must have come to the United States before the age of 16 and have lived in the U.S. continuously for at least five years.
Qualified applicants must also be under 31 years old, enrolled in school, and have graduated from high school or honorably discharged from the military.
"They understand that it is not amnesty, it is not a permanent immigration status, but that it's a step in the right direction," Latin American Association Executive Director Jeffrey Tapia said.
"(It is a) huge feeling of hope; inspiration," Kiju Sanders-McMurtry, another attendee said.
Kijua Sanders-McMurtry, the Associate Dean of Students at Anes Scott College, came to the forum because she sees the event as a chance to help her students who are here illegally.
"I teach a class on civil rights history so this is just reminiscent of all those things we already learned about how students have mobilized," she said.
"I feel really excited. I have kids, so I'm really happy that i might have a better future for them," adds Cordova.
Those who have their cases deferred will be able to renew after two years.
The LAA will continue offering guidance and information in the process and will hold another forum in the future.
Channel 2's Carl Willis contributed to this report.