Under a new executive order issued by President Barack Obama, immediate family members who are living in the country illegally can apply for "parole" status that allows them to directly apply for a green card without having to leave the country and wait 10 years to apply legally.
Advocates for illegal immigrants and military members said there could potentially be thousands of families affected by the program, The Arizona Republic reported Sunday.
Among them is Gabriel Zermeno, a member of the Arizona Army National Guard. Zermeno, 21, is a legal U.S. citizen who could be called up to active duty at any point. His father, Jose, lives in the Phoenix area illegally.
The younger Zermeno said the stress of finding out his father, 53, is facing deportation by the country he is fighting to protect weighs heavily on him.
"At any moment, I could be overseas fighting for my country and he could be getting deported by the same country I was supposed to be fighting for," Zermeno said.