Published September 17, 2012
LOS ANGELES – Thousands of illegal immigrants have inundated the nation's second-largest school district with requests for copies of records that might qualify them for the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the district said Monday.
Under the program, people who are 30 or younger will be allowed to stay in the United States and work for up to two years if they prove they've lived in this country continuously since June 2007.
Applications can be renewed every two years.
An estimated 200,000 current and former students in the Los Angeles Unified School District might be eligible for the federal program, said Lydia Ramos, a special assistant to Superintendent John Deasy.
"We looked at the birth years that this program covers and there were about 200,000 students that listed another country of origin," Ramos said. "We have probably the highest number of students who would be eligible for this."
The Board of Education last week ordered that all current requests be handled within 35 days and future ones within seven days.
"I feel like doors are opening up for me," said 17-year-old Bell High School senior Saul Berrera, who was 10 when his mother brought him to the United States from El Salvador.
The school district already had a backlog of at least 2,300 requests for transcripts or diplomas before Aug. 15, the first day applicants for the Obama program could submit forms to the federal government, the Los Angeles Times (lat.ms/QTKDF8) reported.
"We are being inundated," Bell High School Principal Rafael Balderas said, adding his school was two weeks behind in providing documents. The school received about 200 requests for transcripts last year, but that total had been exceeded by July.
District officials notified schools on Friday that applicants can make requests online or fill out forms at schools for forwarding to the district's central office.
"We're doing this to relieve individual school sites from having to complete these when they already have reduced resources," Ramos said.
Records will be provided for free or at nominal cost. The federal government charges applicants $465 for each deferred action request.
Officials say there's a sense of urgency among applicants who worry about their window closing should Obama fail to win re-election in November.
"There are political considerations for some families," Ramos said.
The financially strapped school district expects to spend at least $200,000 in staff costs as well as an undetermined amount of overtime for employees who have worked to improve the records request system.
Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com