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Joy, fear as illegal immigrants apply for permits

August 16, 2012 |  8:01 am

More photos: Undocumented youths apply for work permits

Tens of thousands lined up nationwide on the first day of a new federal program that would allow people who were brought here illegally as children to defer deportation and obtain work permits provided they meet certain criteria, such as no serious criminal record.

In Los Angeles, people cradled babies, ordered pizza, ate chili-sprinkled mangoes and took shelter from scorching heat under jumbo-sized umbrellas along West 3rd Street in Westlake. "This is a family affair," said Jorge-Mario Cabrera, a coalition spokesman. "Grandmas come, children come, fathers come."

The coalition said that it would stay open Wednesday until everyone in line had an appointment, and that its outreach efforts have informed 36,000 young people since President Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in June.

PHOTOS: Undocumented youths apply for work permits

Sean Tan, 19, a UC Berkeley student majoring in economics, got in line at 6 a.m. Wednesday. He said his parents brought him from the Philippines when he was 11 on a tourist visa that has since expired.

Tan said he was the valedictorian of his Los Angeles high school and did not find out about his illegal status until he applied for a college preparatory program and was rejected twice.

"I knew my education had to come before everything," Tan said. "It is something I can own for myself, because I do not have an identity because of my legal status."

Diego Rios, 19, lives in Santa Monica and works as a prep cook at a chain restaurant, with fake papers. He wants to work as an emergency medical technician but can't afford classes. He said he was almost 5 when his mother brought him to the United States from Oaxaca, Mexico.

"I'm nervous," he said Wednesday, waiting for a workshop to start. "I could get papers and work legally, but there's a lot that could go wrong." Now and then, he said, he gets jealous of his American-born brother, who is 12.

"I get mad at him because he doesn't realize he has the potential to do a lot of things over here that a lot of other people don't," Rios said.


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Photo: Brenda Robles, 20, left, of Torrance and Alexandra De La Cruz, 21, of Hawthorne wait with hundreds of young immigrants lined up outside the offices of Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times