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Countywide : INS Plans Increase in Local Services

The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service plans to increase services for the growing Orange County immigrant population, agency officials said this week.

During a meeting with Vietnamese community leaders in Westminster, INS officials said they will conduct more naturalization ceremonies locally rather than in Los Angeles to make it more convenient for Orange County residents.

In addition, as soon as federal money is available, there are plans to expand the Westminster INS office--which currently has 14 employees--to handle interviews and tests for people seeking U.S. citizenship.

“We want to get most of the work done here so people wouldn’t have to go downtown,” said Richard K. Rogers, director of the immigration service’s Los Angeles District, which covers seven counties, including Orange County.

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Following a tour of the Little Saigon business district, Rogers and several other INS officials met Monday with about 25 Vietnamese community leaders who complained about the slow and often confusing naturalization process.

Rogers said that plans are underway to conduct naturalization ceremonies in Orange County at least every three months.

A naturalization ceremony will be held Sept. 22 at the Sequoia Hotel in Buena Park for 1,000 new citizens, he said. It will be the second mass swearing-in ceremony in the county. Three years ago, 150 new citizens were sworn in during a ceremony in Disneyland.

The INS Los Angeles District office receives about 700 citizenship applications a day, Rogers said. He said because of the volume, some applications are lost or misplaced, but the agency is moving toward using an electronic filing system.

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There are two INS offices in Orange County--in Laguna Niguel and Westminster. The local offices process requests for employment authorization or permanent residency, and issue new “green cards” to replace the current registration cards, which will expire Sept. 20.

“It’s great that the INS should do this,” said Nam Loc Nguyen, of the Immigration and Refugee Department of the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. “The more they come out to the community, the more they become sensitive to the needs of the community.”

INS officials also told about 25 people who attended the meeting at the Westminster Community Services building that efforts have been made to seek travel documents for 15 Vietnamese convicts who are being held at the INS detention center in San Pedro.

Kenneth John Elwood, district assistant director for detention and deportation, said the criminals have completed their jail terms and are awaiting deportation.

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But because there are no diplomatic relations between the United States and Vietnam, Elwood said, seeking travel papers for the Vietnamese convicts has been difficult.

"(Deportation) is a strong deterrence for those involved in organized crime or gangs,” Elwood said.


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