- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 5, 2008

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) | Thousands of former Mexican laborers who worked in U.S. fields and rail yards have gained an extra two weeks to recover money taken from their paychecks during the World War II era.

Last month, a federal judge in San Francisco approved a multimillion-dollar settlement granting many laborers hired through the Bracero Program the right to collect some of their lost wages.

Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Ministry agreed to pay about $14.5 million to the first wave of workers, provided they or their immediate family are living in the U.S.

That settlement put an end to a class-action suit filed on behalf of the workers, who claimed about 10 percent of their earnings was withheld and sent to Mexican banks from 1942 to 1946.

Attorneys announced Monday the workers will have until Jan. 5 to submit claims to qualify for the one-time payment of up to $3,500, a two-week extension from the original court-imposed deadline.

An estimated 2.5 million braceros helped stem domestic labor shortages under the federal program, which imported temporary Mexican laborers through 1964.

It is not known how many braceros are still alive and could qualify, but attorneys plan to work with community-based organizations and Spanish-language media to encourage participation.

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