Amnesty Program For 3 Million Illegal Aliens Opens Today
Undated (AP) _ Today was amnesty day for an estimated 3 million illegal immigrants, the beginning of a yearlong opportunity to become a U.S. citizen, and some applicants stood in line through the night.
″I love it when a plan comes together, finally,″ said Al Giugni, head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s El Paso sector, which includes New Mexico. ″It’s been quite an experience, trying to put the pieces together.″
A local shop donated a 7-foot brass Statue of Liberty for the INS legalization center. Giugni had it placed in front of the center’s main doors.
″It’s a symbol of what this is all about,″ Giugni said Monday. ″We have a huge banner we’ll put in front that says, ’Out of the Shadows.‴
The program offers amnesty only to those who illegally entered the country before Jan. 1, 1982, and have lived here continuously since then.
The first alien to be processed and granted temporary residency today was Daniel Pelino Roden from the Philippines, said Joe Flanders, an INS spokesman in Los Angeles. Roden submitted his application papers in Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific.
In Harlingen, Texas, people started lining up at midnight outside a legalization center and about 100 people were in line when the doors opened at 8 a.m.
″I’ve been here since midnight, because I thought there would be a lot of people,″ said Maria Sanchez, who is originally from Nuevo Leon, Mexico, but now lives in Mission, Texas.
Between 750,000 and 1 million aliens are expected to apply for legalization in Texas, saied INS spokesman Mario Ortiz.
Because of southern Florida’s large population of Haitians, Cubans and Central Americans, the INS set up five special offices in the Miami area. Thirteen groups, including colleges, church groups and migrant-worker associations, also offered help.
″The INS estimate is probably in the realm of 150,000 to 250,000 (applications) statewide, but that’s a pure guesstimate,″ said Miami District Director Perry Rivkind. He said most of those who showed up today just picked up application forms.
The busiest Florida office was in Hialeah, a heavily Latin, blue-collar city northwest of Miami. INS supervisor Eric McLeod said about 150 people were lined up when the doors opened at 8 a.m. and 500 applications had been handed out by 10:30 a.m.
No one expects all those eligible to show up today. And the estimate of 3 million eligible people is just that - a guess.
″Nobody has any real clear indication of the numbers we’re talking about,″ said Sister Kathleen Rimar of Catholic Charities of Buffalo, N.Y. ″A lot of the people may be sitting back and waiting to see what happens.″
The Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese says it already has registered 285,000 aliens who intend to seek amnesty.
″There’s a high fear level and yet, an awareness that they’ve got to do it,″ said the Rev. Wayne Hawkins of the Columbia Basin Christian Ministry in Moses Lake, Wash.
″It’s difficult convincing people their fears are not valid,″ said Hector Gonzalez, chairman of the Washington Commission on Mexican-American Affairs. ″For now, we’re going to trust the INS’s word and the law that states the information in the applications can only be used for legalization purposes.″
Russ Manchester, INS Seattle District legalization officer, said such fears are overblown. ″I think there are going to be a lot of caterwaulers with egg on their faces when this thing is over,″ Manchester said.
Application fees are $185 per adult with a maximum of $420 for a family. However, applicants are being urged to consult a third party - technically known as a Qualifying Designated Entity or QDE - for help in filling out the four-page forms.
One of the designated agencies in Cleveland consists of the Rev. Augustine Lan and his staff at the Catholic Social Services of Cuyahoga County. He said his office has received about 200 inquiries, most of them anonymous, since the federal law was passed in November.
″They are asking all kinds of questions - What are the requirements, what kind of documents are needed,″ said Lan. ″Most are asking whether INS is going to use the information to deport them. As I think you can understand ... their perception of Immigration is arrest and deportation.″
Stan Davis, INS chief legalization officer in Tucson, Ariz., said he didn’t expect many applicants today.
″I don’t know how ready they will be with their applications,″ he said, since the forms have been available for only a few days.
In Rhode Island, where there are an estimated 10,000 illegal aliens, INS chief William J. Granger says he has only one doctor available to conduct the required medical exams, and that’s not enough.
Darlene Kalke, executive director of the Center for Immigrants Rights in New York City, told a news conference Monday that the regulations are so cumbersome they may prevent many applicants from gaining citizenship.
In addition to work records, applicants must show utility bills, bank receipts, rent and tax records for the past five years, something ″that would even be hard for any of us who are U.S. citizens to do,″ Ms. Kalke said.
″Most of these people spent their whole lives here trying to hide their history,″ she said. ″Many times they did not work or rent in their own names so to re-create a paper trail will be very difficult.″
For some aliens, she said, the law creates agonizing decisions.
″Say a man came here in 1981, but his wife came in 1982 with the children,″ Ms. Kalke said. ″He is eligible for amnesty but they are not.″
″There can be exceptions for humanitarian basis ... for example if the husband and wife both qualified but there are a few minor children who did not, clearly, we’d let them in,″ INS commissioner Alan Nelson said today on ABC’s ″Good Morning America.″