Applications for Amnesty Double, Immigration Officials Say
Undated (AP) _ The deadline for the U.S. amnesty program for illegal aliens is less than a week away, and officials say applications have doubled in the last- minute rush.
″Basically, we’re all procrastinators,″ said Ana Pardo at a special Immigration and Naturalization Service office in Charlotte, N.C., where some applicants slept overnight on the sidewalk outside.
″Now, they’re all panicking,″ said Ms. Pardo.
In the INS Western district, composed of California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii and Guam, all INS offices will be open Sunday and a new hotline telephone number has been established for callers, according to Harold Ezell, INS regional commissioner.
″We’ve got so many applications we can’t get them all fed into the computer,″ Ezell said Wednesday. ″Monday we did 11,174 applications in the region, Tuesday we did 12,570. At our highest day at the peak before the summer (last year) we did 7,000 and thought that was phenomenal.
″The procrastinators are coming forward,″ Ezell said.
Under the main amnesty program, illegal immigrants face a May 4 deadline to apply for legal residency status. Last month, INS officials decided to give people who had met the application deadline 60 days to collect documents to prove they have lived in the United States since Jan. 1, 1982.
Under a second program, agricultural workers have until Nov. 30 to apply for amnesty. To be eligible, they must prove they have worked as field hands for at least 90 days from May 1985 to May 1986.
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a measure to extend the cutoff date from midnight May 4 to Nov. 30, but the bill faces strong opposition in the Senate and a possible presidential veto. INS officials oppose an extension of the yearlong program.
In El Paso, Texas, immigration officials said Wednesday that anyone with the necessary documents and $185 fee who is standing in line in front of the INS center by midnight May 4 will be considered to have met the deadline.
One post office in El Paso and one in Albuquerque, N.M., will stay open until midnight that day to handle the last-minute applications, Postal Service spokesman Vaughn Musgrave said.
In El Paso, the rush of applicants started about six weeks ago, said INS District Director Al Giugni.
From the beginning of the program last May until March 16, Giugni said, the El Paso office handled 23,000 amnesty applications. From March 17 until Tuesday, the office processed 12,370 applications, he said.
″We’re going crazy,″ said attorney Bernard Perlmutter of Legal Services of Greater Miami. ″There’s all this last-minute hysteria.″
In the last 10 days, INS officials said that the number of applicants in Florida had swelled from about 300 a week to about 700 a week.
Charles Wheeler, director of the National Center for Immigrants’ Rights, said Wednesday that the rush for applications has doubled in Los Angeles in the last month. The center provides assistance for immigrants.
INS officials originally estimated that between 2 million and 4 million illegal immigrants would seek amnesty. As of last week, however, only 1.6 million had applied.