News Column

Hispanic Center in Reading, Pa., Abuzz With Inquiries

Aug. 16, 2012

Mike Urban

The Daniel Torres Hispanic Center received dozens of calls in recent weeks from local Latinos seeking answers about the Obama administration's new immigration program.

The initiative -- called the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program -- started Wednesday, when the government began accepting applications from children and young adults looking to avoid deportation.

Many in Berks are likely eligible, though it is impossible to say how many will apply, said Michael Toledo, executive director of the Hispanic Center.

The law allows young adults and teens who meet other criteria to get legal authorization to attend school, work or serve in the military while getting a two-year deferral from deportation.

The Migration Policy Institute estimated last week that as many as 1.7 million could be eligible nationwide.

Since the Reading area has a high Latino and immigrant population, Toledo anticipated getting questions from the community about the new law, and he did.

Most callers wanted to know the basics, such as how they apply -- the easiest way is by obtaining forms through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website -- and what the application costs -- the fee is $465, and applicants need proof of identity and eligibility.

Toledo said the country needs Congress to reform immigration laws, but said for now, the new law will help many.

"These youth came to this country through no fault of their own," he said. "They're trying to do the right thing, and they deserve every opportunity to continue to contribute to their communities."

Although Toledo doesn't know of young Berks immigrants who have been deported, he said across the country it happens frequently to those whose only crime was being brought to this country when they were children.

"This law will help keep families from being torn apart," he said.

Source: (c)2012 the Reading Eagle (Reading, Pa.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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