JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- For almost her entire life, Maria has lived in fear, always looking over her shoulder. Maria isn't her real name. But since she's in the U.S. illegally, Maria wants to remain anonymous.
"I don't ever want to get deported and give my child to a foster home," says Maria.
On Wednesday, a new program went into effect which is giving hope to Maria and millions of others across the country. It's part of the president's DREAM Act. The program is called "Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals." It allows people who arrived in the U.S. as undocumented children the right to work and get an education.
"It's really giving renewed hope to people -- for the first time in their lives they don't have to look over their shoulder. I think that's what it's giving people. They can finally breathe," says Stephanie Scarborough, a Jacksonville immigration attorney.
Her phone has been ringing off the hook ever since Wednesday, when the application process began. Scarborough is also helping Maria and her family to apply for the deferral program.
The program doesn't provide a path to citizenship. But it does give people who came here at a young age -- a chance to work and go to school in the U.S. legally.
People 30 and younger qualify for the program. They must have arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16 and pose no criminal threat.
Critics say President Barack Obama is using the new program as a way to get the Hispanic vote. Others say it is taking jobs away from Americans. But Scarborough disagrees.
"I don't really see it taking jobs away," says Scarborough. "I see it as providing a legal way for people to work."
She adds that people like Maria are paying taxes and contributing to the local economy. The money Maria makes is used in her community to pay rent, buy food and clothes. Maria calls the program "a relief -- a wonderful relief."