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Some hail, some hesitate over immigration scheme

Roberto Larios, 21, (R) holds Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival application as he waits in line with hundreds of fellow undocumanted immigrants at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles offices to apply for deportation reprieve on August 15, 2012 in Los Angeles, Calif.

Kai Ryssdal: Starting today, undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children have a way to stay here a little longer -- legally. Best guesses are almost two million people could be eligible for what's called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative. Once they file the right paperwork and pay a fee of $465, qualified applicants get a renewable work permit good for two years.

Sounds like a bargain. Marketplace's Jeff Tyler reports not everyone thinks so.


Jeff Tyler: Many who qualify for the Deferred Action program are taking a wait and see approach. Erick Huerta was 7 when his parents brought him to this country. Now he’s 28 and studying journalism at a college in East Los Angeles. He’s eligible for the program. But in an election year, he worries the rules could change. And he fears that information gathered now could one day be used to deport him.

Erick Huerta: Having had friends who have had parents deported, having friends deported, I know differently how things work on paper and how things are executed are two completely different things.

Robert Ratliff is an immigration attorney in Mobile, Ala. He says his clients have two concerns.

Robert Ratliff: One is that it’s a two-year program and they don’t know what’s going to happen at the end of two years. And, two, by applying for this program, are they exposing their family and maybe other non-qualifying siblings to the government.

The application process can be complicated and Ratliff says it’s not for everyone.

Ratliff: Everyone needs to consult an attorney or a licensed immigration representative to really see if this is the right program for them.

But consulting a lawyer means another expense. Ratliff charges between $300 and $2,000, depending on the complexity of the case. And for applicants like Erick Huerta, even the $465 application fee is a challenge.

Huerta: It’s not exactly chump-change. And that’s not something I have in the bank right now. I’m a student. I’m unemployed.

Many others are in the same boat. To raise money for the application fee, Huerta says some communities are holding fundraisers or yard sales.

I’m Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeff Tyler is a reporter for Marketplace’s Los Angeles bureau, where he reports on issues related to immigration and Latin America.

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