Roughly 200,000 young immigrants in California granted protection from deportation under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program are being urged to reapply after it was announced Thursday that the program will be extended.
"It's expensive, it's invasive and it's time-consuming, but it's also one of the few rays of sunshine for the many, many millions of people who are living in the shadows but want to fully contribute to our society," said Jorge-Mario Cabrera, a spokesman for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.
Nationwide, more than 560,000 immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children have been granted temporary work permits and a two-year deferral of deportation under the program, known as DACA.
The first permits are set to expire in September. But under the policy change announced Thursday by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, DACA recipients will be able to apply for two additional years of relief.
The news came under attack from some Republicans who said immigration policy should be focused on reviewing applications of people trying to come to the country lawfully.
Renewal applications cost $465. Applicants must prove that they haven’t been convicted of a felony or three or more misdemeanors and haven't left the country without permission since the program began.
To help immigrants navigate the renewal process, several immigrant rights groups are offering free legal clinics.
Speaking at a news conference where the clinics were announced, 21-year-old Sean Tan, a rising senior at UC Berkeley, said DACA "has changed my life and my family's trajectory."
He and his two brothers were born in the Philippines. They came to the United States with their parents in 2005 on tourist visas and never left.
Under DACA, his older brother, Kjell, 23, has found work as a registered nurse and his younger brother, Euan, 18, was allowed into a work study program at UC San Diego.
The three brothers no longer worry about being deported.
"It's a completely different perspective now," he said. "It's been a relief."