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Undocumented youth on permits: 'It's the only chance we have'

August 15, 2012 | 12:25 pm

CHIRLA lines
Hundreds of young illegal immigrants started lining up at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday outside the offices of the Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles to apply for a reprieve from deportation and get work permits on the first day of a new federal program.

Hundreds showed up to a morning workshop put on by the immigration rights group, which so far has helped upward of 36,000 people understand how to apply. The reprieve applies to young people carried over the border illegally as infants or children, but who otherwise meet criteria for good citizenship and a productive future.

Many who showed up at the Westlake offices seemed confused because they thought their applications would be processed Wednesday, but they were actually signing up for an orientation appointment, the first of which will be held Sept. 14, organizers said.

PHOTOS: Undocumented youths apply for work permits

People came with babies in strollers and shaded themselves under umbrellas and ate nuts sprinkled with chili. Vendors sold $1 sandwiches wrapped in napkins, and LAPD officers and security guards stood by.

College student Pedro Trujillo, who arrived in the U.S. at 6 years old with his parents from Mexico, said he grew up watching his mother work in the garment industry for five cents per piece to have enough money to feed their family. She often brought her clothing home and sewed into the night, earning $20 a day, he said.

He said he would tell his mom, "You're working so hard, can I help you? And she would say to me, 'No, son, do your homework first. I don’t want you to do what I do. I want you to use your brain, not your hands. I want you to have a profession.' "

Jorge Galindo, 19, from South L.A., is a microbiology major at Glendale Community College. He was brought to the U.S. from Mexico as a toddler, he said, adding he doesn't have the $465 it costs to apply for the federal program.

His dad sells soda and water on the streets, and his mother used to work in the garment industry but now stays home with their 4-year-old son. Galindo said he wants to be a doctor someday.

“I understand the potential risk of this process, and it's a lot of money," he said. "But I have to take it. It’s the only chance we have right now.”

Two Filipino sisters from Azusa also stood in line. Maida Magana, 25, and Anna May Magana, 22, were near the back because they didn't arrive until 8 a.m. Maida said she attended Citrus College in Glendale and wants to be a nurse.

“I don’t mind the long wait, I've waited 10 years," said Maida, who arrived in the U.S. at age 15 with her parents, who took the day off from work Wednesday as a handyman and a bookkeeper to support their daughters.

“If only we could work in our dream careers, I would want to give back to my parents, who sacrificed everything for their children,” she said.


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Photo: Kenia Rojas, center, 20, of South Gate, waits with hundreds of young immigrants who lined up Wednesday as the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights launched the application period for new federal program. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times