SAN DIEGO, CA — Since President Obama’s Deferred Action Status Program went into effect last year, thousands of young undocumented immigrants have had the opportunity to get legal, but so far the number of those who have, has been unexpectedly low.
Immigration experts estimate there are roughly 25 thousand young undocumented immigrants in San Diego who qualify for Deferred Action, also known as DACA.
It gives young people brought into the country illegally as children by their parents, a permit to live, work and go to school, legally for 2 years.
“We saw that a lot of people applied right when the program started but starting this year we saw a dramatic decrease,” said Daniel Alfaro with Alliance San Diego; he’s helped process dozens of applications for the program.
Numbers from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services agency show less than 10 percent of those who qualify have gotten their DACA Permit.
“We’re supposed to pay like 465 dollars,” said 17 year old, Asriel De Leon, who qualifies for DACA.
Add lawyer fees and the total can reach nearly a thousand dollars per person.
De Leon says his parents haven’t been able to gather the money for his application, so to help he’s taken a job as a janitor, getting paid under the table.
“For the weekend its like a hundred dollars, for Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday night,” said De Leon, who makes less than minimum wage.
“We know that money is one of the issues,” said Alfaro.
“Many are also choosing not to apply, waiting to see if their parents can also get a chance to get legalized under immigration reform,” he added.
But Alfaro says waiting, is a risk not worth taking.
“This is a benefit they can get now, its protection from deportation,” he said.