Nationwide, more than 1 million people were expected to apply. Under the initiative, young undocumented immigrants who are approved get two benefits: a work permit and a renewable, two-year deferment from removal.
At Kennett, Fernandez said, students also are asking for letters that certify their enrollment in elementary and middle schools.
"Sometimes, they tell us they need it for their lawyer and use the word deferment," Fernandez said. "They don't get into details. We both know what's going on."
Yvette Young, assistant director of operations for the School District of Philadelphia, did not release raw figures but, through a spokeswoman, said the district was "dealing with a significant increase" in requests for transcripts and diplomas.
To be eligible for DACA, petitioners must have been younger than 16 when they entered the United States, have been younger than 31 on June 15 (the day the initiative was announced), have earned a high school diploma or GED, or served honorably in the military.
Generally, districts do not ask graduates why they want their records. Young said the recent uptick could be related to not only DACA, but also Pennsylvania's voter-ID law. For voter-ID purposes, school records can be used to prove residency.
DACA applications are submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services - accompanied by a $465 fee, supporting documentation, and fingerprints for a criminal-record background check.
An estimated 1.7 million illegal immigrants are eligible nationwide, including 30,000 in Pennsylvania and 70,000 in New Jersey. Citizenship and Immigration Services began accepting applications Aug. 15; to date, it has received more than 72,000. The government has not said how many have been approved so far.
Since July, requests for transcripts have swamped some school districts in California and Texas, home to the nation's largest populations of Mexican and Asian immigrants. Some have had to add staff to deal with the increased workload.
Locally, advocates for immigrants have formed the Pennsylvania Deferred Action Network (P-DAN), a coalition of private lawyers and nonprofit groups, including Esperanza, HIAS, the Nationalities Service Center, and the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians.
Statistics circulated at a recent P-DAN meeting showed that about 800 people, primarily residents of Southeastern Pennsylvania, had attended informational sessions about DACA. Of those, about 250 went on to individual consultations with lawyers, and about 50 applied for deferments.
Natasha Kelemen, executive director of the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, which is coordinating P-DAN's outreach, said the group was working to address the need for legal assistance in such suburbs as Norristown.
"We are hearing that there a number of people looking for help to apply," she said, "and anticipating another wave of applications" after the presidential election, depending on the outcome.
If Mitt Romney were to win, she said, it is not clear whether he would continue DACA or simply not deport anyone already approved.
Contact Michael Matza at 215-854-2541 or email@example.com.