Young immigrants in Delaware Valley gain immigration relief

    Maria Sotomayor sounds genuinely excited about filling out her tax forms. And, for the first time, she’s eligible to apply for a Pennsylvania driver’s license.

    “All the things that I had not done before because of my situation,” she said, “I was learning about.”

    Sotomayor was accepted last year to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which offers young immigrants who arrived in the country illegally as children a two-year reprieve from deportation. Instituted by the Obama administration last summer, it grants temporary authorization to work.

    The latest numbers show Sotomayor was one of 3,408 applicants from Pennsylvania who submitted petitions to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. As of the end of March, 2,120 of those applicants have been accepted.

    Elsewhere in the mid-Atlantic region, 8,483 of 14,390 New Jersey applicants were accepted. In Delaware, there were 857 applications and 604 acceptances.

    Sotamayor, who arrived from Ecuador when she was 9, had been expecting that, after she graduated from college, she would have to return to the pizza shop she’d worked at since age 15.

    Accepted for DACA last year, she gave her two weeks notice and came on as the deferred action coordinator for the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition.

    “It changes your life in so many ways,” she said. “Once you have this, you don’t have to fear so much like you used to before.”

    Critics of DACA say recipients will compete with Americans for jobs.

    Elsewhere in the mid-Atlantic region, of 14,390 New Jersey applicants, 8,483 were accepted. In Delaware, there were 857 applications and 604 acceptances.

    The temporary status does not represent a path to citizenship. Ultimately the fate of Sotomayor and others like her probably will depend on the results of negotiations over comprehensive immigration reform.

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