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Deferred action applications open next month

The federal government will begin accepting applications next month under the expanded rules for the deferred action from deportation program, officials said Thursday.

Undocumented immigrants who entered the United States before they were 16 years old, and have lived in the country continually since Jan. 1, 2010, can apply to the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Service beginning Feb. 18.

Announced in November by President Barack Obama, the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program changed the deferred action period for young immigrants from June 15, 2007 to January 1, 2010 and removed age restrictions. 

The announcement also changed the employment authorization for so-called DREAMers from two years to three years. 

Parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents will have to wait to apply until "mid-to-late May 2015," according to USCIS. 

The announcement came even as the deferred action program is under fire from two directions. 

On Monday, Nevada's attorney general announced that the state would join a federal lawsuit, which includes Texas and 17 other states, in an attempt to block the DACA program. 

Congress has also threatened to block the presidential action.

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On January 16, the House used a funding bill for  the Department of Homeland Security to attack the President's orders. The bill would not only strip funding for the deferred action program, but would reverse the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. 

House Republicans overwhelmingly voted for the bill saying it was in response to Obama overstepping his power by issuing executive orders shielding nearly 5 million immigrants from deportation. 

Arizona's House members split along partisan lines, with all five Republicans voting for the bill, while all four Democrats opposed. 

At a legal clinic devoted to the new deferred action programs at Pueblo High School in Tucson, U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva criticized the House vote. "What the president did, was constitutionally correct, legally correct and morally correct," Grijalva said. "We wish we had legislative immigration reform, but Republican didn't do a damn thing to make that happen." 

Freshman U.S. Rep. Martha McSally was one of 26 Republican who voted against the amendment that cut off funding for deferred action, but ultimately voted for the full bill. 

"It’s true that our immigration system is broken, and that the president’s unilateral actions have made it worse. But it is neither practical nor fair to deport young migrants who freely came forward, giving information such as fingerprints and home addresses to our government, under the auspices that they would be given deferred status," McSally said in a press release.

U.S. Sen. John McCain praised the House vote, saying in a prepared statement that “Congress has a responsibility to respond and push back on his illegal power-grab. Immigration is clearly an issue that must be debated and decided by the representatives of the people, not by executive fiat.”

The U.S. House has also pursued a security bill that would require the Department of Homeland Security to get "operational control" of the U.S.-Mexico border, pushing Border Patrol agents to the fence line and requiring a large investment in surveillance equipment, along with funding for National Guard units. 

However, the bill has stalled out in the House due to partisan fights over its measures, while Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and the Border Patrol's union have criticized the border bill's provisions. 

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Legal clinic volunteer Myrna Velasco helps Karina Monter, Jocelyn Carino and Raul Carino organize documents for their application to the deferred action program centered around parents of U.S. citizens announced by President Obama in November.