AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

A quick update now on the program that has come to be known as DACA - that stands for Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals. It gives temporary legal status to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. Since the program began, more than 300,000 people have applied and that has generated mountains of paperwork.

CORNISH: Among the program's guidelines, applicants have to prove they've been in the U.S. for five consecutive years. The quickest way to do that is through school transcripts.

As NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates reports, in California, that's challenged an already over-burdened school system.

KAREN GRISBY BATES, BYLINE: As soon as President Obama announced DACA would become law, thousands of potential applicants rushed to request their school transcripts. Down in San Diego, Bea Fernandez describes how things looked at several schools in her area on the first day DACA-eligible families arrived to request transcripts.

BEA FERNANDEZ: Once day, school district opens up and you have, like, 80 people there with children and waiting in line and requesting documents. And it started happening on a daily basis. Some waited as early as 5:30, coming from out of town.

BATES: Fernandez is in charge of the DACA office at the Ballard Parent Center. After several days of long lines, the San Diego Unified School System opened the office to help expedite transcript requests. Fernandez says eager parents still come in every day, bringing an incredible amount of supporting documentation.

FERNANDEZ: You'd be surprised how many families come here with their little folders of every report card or award that their child has received in education.

BATES: The office was originally slated to close in December, but Fernandez says it will remain open well into the New Year because of strong demand.

Up in Los Angeles, L.A.'s Unified School District faced the same problem on a much larger scale. L.A. is the second-largest public school system in the country. Lydia Ramos, assistant to superintendent John Deasy, said because the system has the largest DACA-eligible population in the country, they knew the increased demand would take its toll.

LYDIA RAMOS: If students went to individual schools - that was going to overwhelm those schools in an environment where, in California, our schools have been ravaged by the budget cuts over the last four years.

BATES: So, Ramos says, district headquarters chose to provide transcripts from its back up data stored at headquarters. That data showed a student's academic history with attached home addresses, vital for satisfying the residency requirement. And centralizing the process reduced waiting time from weeks to mere days.

Even with improvements to streamline the systems in L.A. and San Diego, though, four out of five DACA-eligible young California immigrants aren't applying.

Jorge-Mario Cabrera, of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, says money is a huge barrier. Just as it costs to apply for a passport, there are costs associated with DACA credentials. Cabrera says the $465 fee for each DACA application is a daunting amount for poor families to pay.

JORGE-MARIO CABRERA: Families have to make a tough decision between applying for deferred action, which will help someone come out of the shadows, or pay for rent. It's literally that serious of an issue.

BATES: And it's a gravity that's compounded for many families that have more than one young person who is DACA eligible.

Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News.

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