Legalization Lines Lengthen As Amnesty Deadline Nears
Undated (AP) _ Lines of undocumented aliens with hopes for better futures formed outside legalization centers throughout the country, and immigration officials braced for an even bigger onslaught as next week’s amnesty deadline neared.
″Monday, Tuesday, it’s going to be outrageous,″ said Richard S. Rios, director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service center in Houston. An estimated 3,000 people submitted applications at the center Saturday and another 3,500 were expected Sunday, he said.
″The crowd will grow as the deadline approaches,″ Rios said.
The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act gives aliens who can prove continuous residency in the United States since Jan. 1, 1982 until midnight Wednesday to apply for legal status.
From California to New York, INS offices were staying open Saturday and Sunday, and many planned extended hours next week.
Officials also were waiving interviews with applicants until after the deadline to cope with the rush.
In the New York borough of Queens, immigration officials staged a party to entice applicants Saturday. Balloons and American flags decorated a big room, a calypso singer entertained the crowds, and a disc jockey and a steel band were waiting in the wings. Officials also served refreshments.
One Trinidad native, who said he has lived in New York for 18 years, said he waited until the last minute to apply because he had trouble raising the $185 application fee. The fee for children is $50, and there is a family ceiling of $420.
Yvette La Gonterie, chief INS legalization officer for Brooklyn and Queens, said she expected 1,000 people at the office Saturday and again Sunday. Over 100,000 of the estimated 250,000 illegal immigrants in the New York City area are expected to apply by the deadline, she added.
The refusal by Congress last week to extend the application deadline to Nov. 30 was spurring the flow of applicants, some officials said.
″They’ve had a year and they’ve just procrastinated,″ said Jim Pomeroy, INS district manager for New Jersey.
The Paterson, N.J., office had more than 100 applicants by 10 a.m. Saturday, Pomeroy said. About 22,000 people statewide, mostly from Latin America, have applied for citizenship, he added.
Moiseca Castillo, 37, of Peru, stood at the Paterson office Saturday with his cousin, Victor Arevado, who is a citizen.
″Like many Latin Americans, we came here looking for better opportunities,″ said Castillo, who said he has lived for eight years with his cousin in Elizabeth.
Three men lined up outside an INS center in Arlington, Texas, Saturday said they were eager to gain amnesty.
″It’s a little safer, and a little relieving,″ said Pete R. Gonzales, an INS security officer who translated for the three Mexican immigrants. ″They won’t worry about people ... telling them, ’We will call immigration.‴
The small office in Wenatchee, Wash., 150 miles east of Seattle, stopped accepting new applications Friday after being inundated with agricultural workers apparently confused about Wednesday’s deadline, acting director Allan Callison said.
Under a special program, agricultural workers have until Nov. 30 to apply for citizenship if they can prove they worked for at least 90 days from May 1985 to May 1986, he said. Some farm employers apparently have started demanding work authorization cards, he added.