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INS Denies Charges of Stalling on Amnesty OK Notifications

Times Staff Writer

Charges by immigrant advocates that as many as 20,000 amnesty applications have been stalled in bureaucratic “limbo” were denied Tuesday by immigration officials, who said that they have begun implementing measures to better update applicants on the status of their cases.

Susan Alva of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles charged that though the applications have been approved, the Immigration and Naturalization Service has failed to notify applicants or provide them with their temporary residence cards. She said this has caused some to lose their jobs because some employers have refused to continue accepting temporary work permits that were issued to them earlier, pending a decision on their amnesty applications.

“Some have been waiting up to a year to hear the result of their cases,” Alva said at a morning press conference. “When they go to INS to ask, they’re just told to go home and wait some more.”

At a press conference later in the day, INS officials said the applications in question belong to immigrants who have moved and failed to notify the government of their new address. They said the 20,000 represent a tiny fraction of the more than 1 million applications filed in the INS western region during the one-year amnesty program that ended last May.

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‘New Address’

“If you haven’t heard from us and you’ve moved . . . it’s your responsibility to make sure the INS has your new address,” said Western Regional INS Commissioner Harold Ezell, noting that change-of-address forms are available at government legalization offices.

He added that the agency plans to conduct a public information blitz during the next two weeks to encourage applicants who have moved to fill out the address cards.

The agency also plans to provide master lists of approved applicants so that immigrants can check for themselves on the status of their cases, he said. The lists will be available sometime in March at legalization offices, he said.

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Ernest Gustafson, the INS’ Los Angeles district director, said the status of applications is available through computers at INS legalization offices and that INS workers have the capability to make these checks for applicants.

Despite the offers, however, immigrant advocates contend that applicants often find it difficult getting assistance from clerks at understaffed legalization offices.

“These may be things proposed by INS, but it’s just not happening,” Alva said.

Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alatorre, who backed the coalition’s demands for improved notification procedures, added that “we’re not here to lay blame” for the applications that are “in limbo.”

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Residence Cards

“But people who have qualified for amnesty deserve to receive the (temporary residence) cards due them,” he said.

Ezell said that in an attempt to address such concerns, the agency plans to open a “problem window” at each legalization office by the end of the week to handle complaints.

The INS officials also noted that applicants may telephone the INS hot line--(800) 643-4800--for further information or the INS regional processing facility--(714) 643-4800--for updates on the status of their applications.

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