U.S. immigration program causes extra school work

YAKIMA — The new federal immigration program that delays action against young people living in this country illegally has created a pile of work for the Yakima School District and other districts with a large number of immigrant children.

Yakima School District registrar Sheila Miller estimates she has responded to as many as 800 requests for transcripts and other records since the school year began, mostly because of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, The Yakima Herald reported in Sunday’s newspaper.

Most Yakima valley schools get a handful of transcript requests each month. Now dozens are arriving each week.

“We’re having to go through boxes and boxes,” said Rachel Romero, counseling secretary and registrar for Grandview High School. She has fielded 265 requests since August.

Teachers have volunteered to help and principals are hiring substitutes to pitch in.

In Yakima, the registration office has spent up to 400 hours filling records requests, said Roy Knox, director of central registration. An exact cost wasn’t readily available. But school officials said that at rates of $10 to $20 an hour for extra help, the requests have cost the district $4,000 to $8,000.

The deferred action program allows immigrants age 30 and younger to request a two-year reprieve from deportation risk. Applicants must have moved to the country before age 16; graduated from high school, enrolled in college or served in the military; kept a clean criminal record; and lived in the United States since 2007.

School records, both high school transcripts and cumulative elementary school enrollment data, help prove some of those requirements.

The Obama administration announced the program in June and began accepting applications Aug. 15.

Nationwide, more than 82,000 people had applied as of Sept. 13, according to the most recent statistics from the Department of Homeland Security. Only 29 had been approved, but officials warned that paperwork and background checks could take months.

School districts in the Yakima valley have waiting lists of as long as a month to keep up with the crush of records requests.

In Grandview, Romero calls the surge of requests exciting, exhausting and touching.

For example, she had to tell one 24-year-old graduate anxious to continue his college education that he would not receive his data in time for an upcoming meeting with his attorneys.

“He was almost in tears,” she said. “It’s quite heartbreaking. As excited as I am for him, it’s really draining us.”

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