The application process for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) began on Aug. 15, 2012, two months after President Barack Obama announced protections for undocumented immigrants who arrived to the U.S. as children.
"DACA here at CHIRLA was actually the inception of our legal services," said Karla Navarrete, legal director at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).
The line outside of the organization's Los Angeles office stretched for blocks.
"A lot of our staff are part of that original day, the day that legal services started was actually Aug. 15, 2012 because we started doing applications," Navarette said.
DACA offers protection from deportation, a work permit and the ability to travel outside of the U.S.
Bethzy Garcia is both a recipient of DACA and helps provide legal services for other beneficiaries.
"August 15 here was my second day working at CHIRLA," said Garcia. "We had lines of people going all the way to Beverly Boulevard. So, like three blocks down the street," she recalls.
Those who applied then are now at least 25 years old.
"We also have the older generations who, they might be almost closer to 40 now," she said. "A lot of them, they have children, they have professional jobs."
DACA has faced many legal challenges, making an already temporary protection more unstable for people like Garcia and others. Today, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) does not accept new applications.
"DACA yes, helped young people, but also a lot of young people, they haven't been able to benefit from this program because DACA was terminated," Garcia said.
To commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the opening of DACA applications and continue helping people renew, CHIRLA is hosting several free clinics across its SoCal offices this week. While those slots are filled, people can schedule future appointments.
"So, to not wait a year to renew because then you could lose the renewal privilege, you have to apply as an initial applicant, which is not being accepted," said Navarrete.
The organization advocates for DACA recipients and the immigrant community at large here in Los Angeles and around the country. It's currently supporting a bill that would update a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act and provide a pathway to permanent residency for many through what's known as the registry.
"It is time that we don't have a Band-Aid solution, but we have a permanent solution for our DACA beneficiaries and beyond that," said Lupita Martinez, CHIRLA's California Dream Network statewide organizer.