Most applicants for political asylum live in neighborhoods near downtown Los Angeles. So when the Immigration and Naturalization Service moved its asylum office to Laguna Niguel, 55 miles to the south, that created a hardship for many applicants.
INS' first efforts to remedy the situation weren't enough. But now it's doing the right things to make sure that applicants get needed services.
The INS' Los Angeles asylum office was moved to Laguna Niguel when negotiations for office space in Buena Park--which, though in Orange County, is much closer to L.A.--broke down. The agency said it would find another location in the same area as soon as possible. In the meantime, however, it expected applicants to travel to INS regional headquarters in Laguna Niguel for interviews. For asylum applicants who use public transportation, that meant a round-trip bus ride of at least six hours.
The INS said it would make allowances for applicants who missed interviews. But groups that represent asylum applicants said that wasn't enough.
The INS subsequently came up with a workable plan to service clients who find it nearly impossible to get to Laguna Niguel. Some will be interviewed in the downtown Los Angeles federal building, with priority given to those with transportation or other problems, including physical disability, age or a need for child care.
INS has a reputation of not being sympathetic to the immigrants it deals with. This time, to its credit, INS responded quickly.