Undocumented youths seek permits: 'I think it gives hope'
Undocumented youths lined up Wednesday to take advantage of a new federal policy aimed at allowing many of them to avoid deportation and obtain work permits.
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 legally in the country and work. It is seen as President Obama’s most ambitious immigration initiative.
Lines of eager young people and their families began forming before daybreak outside the offices of the Coalition for Humane Immigrants Rights of Los Angeles, spokesman Jorge-Mario Cabrera said. The group planned a ceremony at the offices at 2533 W. 3rd St. to welcome the policy change and to hold informational sessions for applicants.
"I think it gives hope to get a better chance to get a better job, more education." Juliana Davila, who was standing in line in the Westlake District, told KTLA News. "It's a great chance."
Davila said that if she got into the program, she would go back to school. She said can afford to pay for school and that it will help her getting a job.
Officials expect crowds throughout the day.
“We’re expecting 500 or more to be here today,” Cabrera said. "They’ll be able to apply if they have the documentation ready, but we expect most to get some information and then come back.”
Although the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is expecting about 1.2 million applications under the plan, advocacy groups estimate that more than 1.7 million teens and young adults may be eligible. Those granted approval will be given legal authorization to work and a two-year deferral from deportation.
The program offers fewer benefits than the sweeping Dream Act, which failed to win approval in Congress in 2010. That legislation, which Obama supported, would have granted legal status to undocumented youths. The new policy, known as "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals," does not.
Application forms are available online at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website: http://www.USCIS.gov/childhoodarrivals, and can be submitted starting Wednesday.
-- Rebecca Trounson and Shelby Grad in Los Angeles and Brian Bennett in Washington, D.C.