LOS ANGELES - It's been a year, since the lives of Anthony Ng and Madison Villanueva changed for the better.
Until last year they were undocumented, and were among the first to apply for President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). DACA protects them from deportation and giving them drivers licenses and work permits.
"To me deferred action was about no longer having the fear of deportation and of course we’ve taken advantage of having a work authorization but what I really did in my deferred action is get more involved,” said Villanueva.
However, Ng and Villanueva are part of the small number of Filipinos who have applied for DACA. Citing US immigration statistics, the Pilipino Workers Center noted only 3,500 Filipinos out of an estimated 50,000 eligible Filipino youth have availed of the program.
"Over 45,000 Filipino youth are still living in the shadows when they can already be living free of fear from deportation, with working authorization and with access to drivers licenses,” said PWC executive director Aqui Versoza.
Advocates believe one reason for the low DACA turnout is economics. The application costs $465 per person. Immigration officials do offer fee waivers, however advocates say they are difficult to obtain.
The PWC has teamed with the Northern California-based Lending Circle for Dreamers.
Under the program, a "dreamer" will receive a scholarship for one third of the costs, $155, to pay for the DACA application.
"The remaining $310 can be paid off at a no cost social loan that’s done in a lending circle where you’re actually just paying $31 a month for 10 months. So that makes it very very affordable,” explained Versoza.
Some believe families clinging on to hope for the immigration overhaul may be another factor for the low DACA turnout.
Experts say families should not pin their hopes on the uncertain pending legislation. Under several reform proposals, DACA may be an advantage in the event of an amnesty.