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Legalization Process Speeded Up For 98-Year-Old Amnesty Applicant

February 10, 1988

HARLINGEN, Texas (AP) _ Now that she has a brand-new green card, 98-year-old Clara Escobedo de Martinez is ready to go on TV to urge other aliens who qualify for amnesty not to miss the chance of a lifetime.

Mrs. Escobedo, a great-grandmother and the nation’s oldest applicant under the new immigration law, received the permanent resident card Tuesday, along with an application for citizenship more than six years sooner than most normally would be eligible to become a citizen.

Immigration officials speeded up the process for Mrs. Escobedo because she once had legal status, said Stephen Martin, the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s regional commissioner.

″What we’re doing now is we’re putting things back in their proper order,″ Martin said.

Mrs. Escobedo, who received the green card during a ceremony that drew about 50 people, plans to make television commercials for the INS without pay because she enjoys the attention.

″I’m very content doing this,″ she said.

The script for one commercial shows Mrs. Escobedo, who is less than 5 feet tall, with two burly Border Patrol agents.

″Do you live in fear of the Border Patrol and the Immigration Service?″ she asks in Spanish, as the agents help her into a chair. ″I did ... but not any more.″

She continues by urging eligible aliens to apply for legalization by the May 4 deadline.

″Don’t let the chance of a lifetime pass you by,″ she says.

Under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, a one-year amnesty period began last May 5 for undocumented aliens able to show they had lived in the United States illegally before Jan. 1, 1982.

A study issued Tuesday in Washington urged the INS to conduct a major marketing effort to attract applicants because the amnesty program is in danger of falling below its original estimate of covering 2 million people.

Most aliens are not able to apply for citizenship until five years after obtaining permanent legal status. Permanent status also was granted to Mrs. Escobedo more than a year ahead of schedule.

″I’m very thankful for this and for all of the things the Lord has done for me without deserving them,″ she said in Spanish on Tuesday during a ceremony in which she was given a Valentine’s Day card and a party.

She never learned how to speak English.

″I think this is great. We’ve been waiting for this,″ said great- granddaugh ter Rakel Zarate, who attended the ceremony.

Mrs. Escobedo, who said her husband was killed by Pancho Villa’s men in 1914 during the Mexican revolution, first came to the United States from Mexico in 1927.

She lived here legally for 35 years, beginning in 1927.

Then, in 1962, as she was returning from a visit to Mexico, immigration officials at the international bridge in the border city of Brownsville canceled her legal status, because they thought she had been living in Mexico.

They sent her back to Mexico, but she returned to stay as an illegal alien in 1979, and lives in Brownsville with her daughter and granddaughter.

″What we did was go back to the time her card was taken and nullify that action because it was not a right and correct action, which gives her legal status in this country since 1927,″ said Martin.

″I think she’ll probably aggressively pursue the (citizenship) application pretty quickly.″

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