Young immigrants brought to America as children can apply for deferred action status starting today. If they qualify for the program, they can obtain a two-year work permit, which would make them ineligible for deportation. This will not put these immigrants on a path to citizenship, but it will give them temporary relief so they can live their lives out of the shadows.

Demand is already very high among the immigrant community:

This weekend, the small offices of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, a nonprofit group, were jammed with people seeking information about the program. Despite the baking heat, the lines stretched out the front door, to the end of a long city block. Similar crowds have flocked to immigrant and student organizations in other states for advice [...]

The work permit young immigrants can receive with the deferral opens many doors that have been firmly shut. They can obtain valid Social Security numbers and apply for driver’s licenses, professional certificates and financial aid for college.

On Saturday at the Los Angeles coalition, which is known as Chirla, many immigrants said they had calculated that the benefits would outweigh their doubts. All day, staff members offered hourlong presentations about the applications to groups of 200 or more immigrants, and still hundreds of people were turned away at closing time.

Among the concerns from immigrants are the potential for not qualifying for relief, and then having a federal agency in possession of information on an undocumented that could get turned over to deportation officials. In addition, the $465 fee to US Citizenship and Immigration Services may be too steep for some immigrants. And there’s the possibility that the program will come to the end in two years or earlier, at the whim of the executive branch.

For the moment, however, hopes are running high, and DREAM-eligible immigrants are flocking to service centers for more information. A recent report from the Center on Migration Policy said that 1.76 million immigrants could be eligible for deferred action status. When faced with the alternative of remaining in the shadows, obviously there’s enormous upside to the deferred action program.