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Only Half Of Eligible Immigrants In California Apply For ‘Dreamers’ Program

Two years ago, federal authorities started accepting applications for deportation relief for immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children. These Dreamers, as they’re commonly known, can get a work permit and permission to stay in the U.S. for two years if they meet the requirements, like attending school or serving in the military. It’s called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program. Fronteras reporter Jill Replogle looks at the results of DACA for young San Diegans who have benefitted.

Photo by Frederic J. Brown

Young people stand in line in Los Angeles to apply for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows qualified immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally as children to study or work openly.

The five states where the most young immigrants have signed up for a federal deportation relief program are California, Texas, Illinois, New York and Florida. Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Two years ago on Aug. 15, federal authorities started accepting applications for deportation relief for immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children. These "dreamers," as they’re commonly known, can get a work permit and permission to stay in the U.S. for two years if they meet requirements such as attending school or serving in the military.

Hundreds of young immigrants living in San Diego have signed up for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.

Viviana Gonzalez lived in fear of being deported and separated from her family until she got her papers last year. She said the work permit that goes along with it has been the best change.

“Finding a job is so much easier,” Gonzalez said, “which affects everything, from being able to have disposable income, to go to school, and to invest it, and to do the savings that you’ve never been able to do before.”

More than 180,000 young Californians have applied under the program, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. That’s the highest number of any state.

Still, only about half of the young immigrants living in California who qualify have applied, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

“There’s a lot of people that still have not signed up for DACA because of financial issues,” said Alondra Garcia, lead San Diego organizer for the Own the Dream campaign. It helps educate potential DACA recipients about the program.

Garcia’s group provides scholarships to young people who can’t afford the $465 application fee.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted last month to end the program, although that bill is unlikely to become law. In the meantime, the Obama administration is studying the possibility of expanding deportation relief to other immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

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