LOS ANGELES (AP) — The line stretches down the block before the sun rises in Los Angeles for immigrants seeking help to renew their work permits under a 5-year-old program that has shielded them from deportation but is now nearing its end.
Ivan Vizueta, a 25-year-old from Long Beach, California, brought a folding chair and music to pass the time while waiting to renew the papers that enable him to work for a plumbing company and earn nearly twice the wages he once did loading and unloading cargo containers. The lines have been a regular occurrence in recent days, with some people camping out as early as 3 a.m.
“I have to do this so I have another two years of safety,” said Vizueta, who was brought to the country nearly two decades ago from Mexico and hopes to run his own plumbing business someday.
For immigrants like Vizueta, it’s a race against the clock as they rush to renew their permits ahead of a looming Oct. 5 deadline set by the Trump administration. After that date, no one else can renew under a program that has let nearly 800,000 immigrants brought to the United States as children work even though they lack legal papers.
The work permits have been a lifeline for many young immigrants who have been educated in American schools and know no other home than the United States. The program created by President Barack Obama in 2012 also protected these immigrants, many of them in their 20s, from being deported to countries they hardly remember. Critics call it an illegal amnesty program that is taking jobs from U.S. citizens.
When President Donald Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program this month, he gave Congress six months to draft a more lasting fix. Democratic leaders and Trump said they have reached a deal to protect the immigrants, but Congress has since turned its focus to repealing Obama’s health care law and overhauling the tax code. Democratic congressional leaders say they are waiting on the White House to craft a legislative proposal.
Meanwhile, immigrant advocates around the country have been urging the Trump administration to extend the Oct. 5 deadline and holding legal clinics and donating money to help immigrants cover the $500 renewal fee.
Jesus Perez of Phoenix says he’s not sure he would have been able to come up with the cash in time to renew were it not for the financial help of an advocacy group that is among several giving financial aid and helping people fill out their paperwork in time. The 30-year-old father of three, with one on the way, was just approved to buy a home but can’t complete the purchase until his renewal comes through.
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