It will cost young illegal immigrants $465 to benefit from a new Obama administration directive granting protection from deportation and temporary work permits, the nation's immigration chief said Friday.
Alejandro Mayorkas, director of U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services, revealed the fee and other new details about the unprecedented relief policy, which takes effect Aug. 15 and which President Barack Obama first announced in June.
Researchers have estimated that more than 1 million people who are under 31 years old and brought to the United States before they were 16 could be eligible for deportation relief and two-year, renewable work permits if they meet all the criteria, which includes a high school diploma or being in school.
The new policy doesn't grant permanent legal residency or citizenship and costs less than either of those two benefits, which most people here illegally have no way of obtaining. Green cards for permanent legal residency cost legal immigrants at least $1,070; becoming a citizen costs $680.
The new $465 work permit fee includes $85 for a fingerprints check.
The youths, many of whom haven't seen their native countries since their infancy, will have to pay an additional $380 fee if they want to travel outside the United States -- and will only will be able to do so if immigration officials determine that they have a legitimate humanitarian, educational or employment-related reason.
U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, on Friday called the new guidance "a slap in the face to the 23 million unemployed or underemployed Americans" on the same day a jobs report showed 8.3 percent of Americans are unemployed.
But U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, the ranking Democrat on Smith's immigration subcommittee, said in an interview that the directive helps the broader community because the young people, many of whom already work, are less likely to be exploited and undercut others in the labor market if they join the legal workforce.
She also said immigration officials had worked to design the program so that it pays for itself.
"It's paid for by the applicants, not by the taxpayers," she said.
The immigration service said it is hiring more workers to prepare for the influx of online-only applications. Anyone who tries to apply before Aug. 15 will be rejected, officials said.
Mayorkas also clarified who won't qualify.
Among the crimes that will disqualify applicants are convictions for gun crimes, sex offenses, burglary and drunken driving. But those with convictions for driving without a license and low-level misdemeanors will be considered.
Contact reporter Matt O'Brien at 510-293-2465. Follow him at www.twitter.com/mattoyeah.