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For young illegal immigrants, a day of hugs, smiles, joy ... and qualms

Young illegal immigrants began applying Wednesday under Obama's miniature DREAM Act, which offers exemption from deportation for at least two years. There was rejoicing among them, but also apprehension.

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Jorge Acu–a is an undocumented immigrant who is applying for citizenship through the Dream Act which allows certain children of undocumented immigrants the possibility of citizenship. Acu–a is from Germantown, Md.

Joanne Ciccarello / Staff

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For DREAMers, Wednesday was a long time coming.

It is the first day that the federal government is accepting applications for President Obama's miniature DREAM Act program, formally known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Young undocumented immigrants eligible for the program – those who are pursuing an education or are serving in the military – are a jumble of emotions: excited about the opportunity but also anxious about whether the government will keep its word and whether their applications will pass muster. 

“For so long, we have been attacked. There has been nothing but anti-immigrant bills, and now we have something like this," says Daniel Rodriguez, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who is pursuing a law degree at Arizona State University. "It’s the first time that I’ve been in this movement in Arizona that we’ve had a win, something to celebrate.” 

Some compared the feeling Wednesday to the moment two months ago when Mr. Obama announced DACA.

“It’s like another June 15,” says Jorge Acuña, an undocumented immigrant who lives in Germantown, Md., as DREAMers shared their joy via social media and in text messages and phone calls to one another.

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