More than 1,300 immigrants filled a giant hall of the L.A. Convention Center Sunday, seeking advice on how President Obama's executive action on immigration affects them.
Construction contractor Reynaldo Serrano showed up two hours early. He said he didn't want to miss out on any information that could help him attain legal status. "I feel like I’m part of this community," Serrano, 44, said. "I love this country. I want to stay here for my family."
Because his two children were born here, Serrano expects to qualify for temporary deportation relief and a work permit. Advocates explained that the president’s order assists parents of U.S. citizens, and legal residents. It also covers people who’ve been here for at least five years, and many who came as children. In total, an estimated 5 million immigrants are eligible for help.
The Coalition for Humane Immigration Reform of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), which organized the event, encouraged the audience to pass along information to their friends and family.
"We're here to ensure that you are not taken advantage of, that you become good consumers of legal services, that you know how to explain to your community what this program is about," said CHIRLA's executive director Angelica Salas.
Salas also pressed immigrants to stay politically involved and pressure Congress to pass immigration reform that would encompass the other 6 million or so immigrants left out of the president's executive action.
"We are also here to tell our government we are not going to give up," Salas said.
Olivia Hernandez, who works as a house cleaner, walked away from the workshop confident that she could apply for deportation protection because her daughter was born in the U.S.
But Hernandez could still use reassurances that temporary relief wouldn't go away under a different administration.
"I'm worried about that, but I don't know if the next president gives us support or not," Hernandez said. "But we try to get protection for now. This is something."
Advocates told immigrants who came as kids that they can start applying in February. Parents, like Serrano, won't be able to apply until May. Serrano said he could wait.
"Getting papers will change our life," Serrano said. "We can get better jobs. We can get health insurance. That will really help our life."