Thousands of illegal immigrants want deportation reprieve for a ‘better life’
Thousands of young illegal immigrants lined up Wednesday outside the offices of the Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles for assistance in applying for a new federal program that would give them a reprieve from deportation.
The line moved slowly as people fanned themselves with papers or manila folders full of documents. Vendors sold Sonoran hotdogs and shaved ice to those waiting in line.
Organizers said they expected 30,000 people to show up at their offices today and "from what I've seen it could be more," said Zayd Casamayor of CHIRLA. The agency is charging $80 to assist with paperwork, compared to the $200 some attorneys are charging. Many professionals have called the organization to offer assistance, Casamayor said.
Speaking to groups of about 50, the CHIRLA staff goes over the process, detailing all of the documents people will need to apply for the deportation reprieve.
"We just got here and we don't even know what's really going on," said Vianey Garcia, 23.
"At least we'll be able to work and drive without fear, and get a license, finally, or apply places and not get rejected."
Garcia's family is from Oaxaca, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States in 1996, when she was 6 years old. She walked across the border with a fake birth certificate for "a better life" and opportunities unavailable back home.
"Back then, it was easy to come across," Garcia said.
Now, Garcia works as a babysitter and does odd jobs. It's hard to find steady work without a driver's license and other necessary papers.
"This would most likely help me get a better job and help pay for my school," she said.
She said she wants to be a dental assistant and has been trying to save money to attend a technical college near Venice.
Under the new policy, more than 1.2 million young illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children can seek to be allowed to stay in the country legally and work. It is seen as President Obama's most ambitious immigration initiative.
The reprieve applies to young people who were carried over the border illegally as infants or children, but who otherwise meet the criteria for good citizenship and a productive future.
-- Weston Phippen
Photo: People stand in line CHIRLA headquarters. Credit: Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times