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Immigrants line up to renew work permits as program ends

This Sept 28, photo shows people waiting in line at CHIRLA (Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Los Angeles) for help with immigration paperwork, including renewing work permits for expiring Obama-era program for immigrants brought to the country as children. (AP)

The line stretches down the block before the sun rises in Los Angeles, made up of immigrants seeking help to renew their work permits under a 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 his papers and get a new two year permit that lets him work for a plumbing company and earn nearly double the amount he made at his old job.

The lines have been a regular occurrence in recent days, with some people camping out as early as 3:00 am. 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 US 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 When President Donald Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program this month, he gave Congress six months to draft a more lasting fix.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 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. (AP)

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