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First day of immigration deferment program draws crowd

Chicago's Navy Pier

As the United States U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began accepting applications under its Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that protects some illegal alien minors from deportation, initial turnout in one location was in the thousands.

The USCIS began accepting applications for the program on Aug. 15 after making the necessary applications and paperwork available on its Web site on Aug. 14.

One local news report from Chicago indicated there could be a huge audience for the program. Reports the morning of Aug. 15 from Chicago’s waterfront said more than 12,000 people were waiting at the Navy Pier grand ballroom to get help from local immigrants’ rights group in filling out their DACA application paperwork. The application process involves dozens of government forms that applicants may have to fill out, depending on their individual circumstances.

Administration officials said in a conference call for reporters on Aug. 14 --   ahead of the opening date for applications  -- that USCIS was prepared for large turnouts and had hired staff to accommodate what some immigration experts said could be an onslaught of applicants.

“We’ve looked at the studies” on expected volume, said the official, who added that the agency could also hire supplemental staffing “depending on volume.” The processing costs are to be supported by the $465 application fee.

The Migration Policy Institute has said that as many as 1.76 million illegal immigrants could be eligible. In announcing the program in June, some White House officials estimated it could draw as many as 800,000 applications from parents of children and young adults looking to remain in the U.S.