Arundel diverts aid money

Hispanic community group had turned down the $14,000 grant

August 22, 2008|By Chris Guy | Chris Guy,Sun Reporter

Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold, who has made a priority of cracking down on illegal immigrants, reallocated money yesterday initially intended for an Annapolis organization that helps Hispanic residents after its leaders turned down the money.

Leopold announced that he was giving $14,000 budgeted for a citizenship class at the nonprofit Centro de Ayuda-or Center of Help - to a church that is part of an alliance of Hispanic clergy.

In an Aug. 7 letter to Leopold, Centro de Ayuda board President Sophie Camacho Hoover and Executive Director Irene M. Zoppi said the nonprofit organization didn't need the grant.

FOR THE RECORD - Because of incorrect information provided by Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold's office, an article yesterday incorrectly stated the procedure for reallocating a $14,000 county grant from one nonprofit agency to another. The funds, initially approved for Centro de Ayuda (Center of Help) can be shifted to the Bethany Christian Center without amending the county budget.
The Sun regrets the error.

Instead, Zoppi said yesterday, the center arranged for Anne Arundel Community College to help with a citizenship class in addition to basic English-language courses the college is already offering at the center on Forest Drive.

"We thought that he was not going to give us any money, we decided to look for another alternative," Zoppi said yesterday. "Since we were able to work something out with the college, why take money if we didn't need it?"

Last year, Leopold denied $115,000 in grants earmarked for Centro de Ayuda - which offers language, legal, health and job-placement services to Latinos - after an effort to distinguish services aimed at legal immigrants from those that assist illegal immigrants proved difficult.

Hoover said students who enroll in the citizenship course will be required to prove their legal status. No questions are asked of students who enroll in basic English courses, Hoover said.

In the letter, Centro de Ayuda recommended that the money go to the county's Department of Aging. Instead, Leopold said yesterday that he will present a budget amendment to the County Council on Sept. 2 to reallocate the funds to the Bethany Christian Center of Annapolis, headed by the Rev. David Jimenez, who said the grant is the first his church and an alliance of Hispanic clergy have received from the county.

"We want to do what we can to extend a hand to those who play by the rules," Leopold said.

Leopold ramped up his opposition against illegal immigration a year ago, issuing an executive order that required any contractor working for Anne Arundel County to sign an affidavit stating that they don't hire illegal immigants. The county, however, does not actively check the veracity of those statements.

More recently, 50 Anne Arundel police officers participated in a federal raid June 30 on an Annapolis painting company and 15 homes where employees lived, in which 46 people were detained. Leopold held a news conference at the site praising the effort.

chris.guy@baltsun.com

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