WESTMINSTER : Wait for New Cards Vexes Immigrants

Ana Secord has lived in the United States for nearly 30 years, but now she is about ready to pack her bags and go back to her native Guatemala.

A frustrating, several-hour wait to have her alien registration card replaced Wednesday was the last straw, she said.

"I owe a lot to this country," said Secord, 47, a maintenance worker for an airline company. "But this is it. In two to three years, I want to go back home."

Secord echoed the frustration of other immigrants trying to replace alien registration cards issued before 1979 with new ones immigration officials consider harder to counterfeit. The old cards expire Monday.

She had waited in line since 3 a.m. Wednesday outside the Immigration and Naturalization Service office at Magnolia Street and Hazard Avenue to get a "ticket" that allowed her, after another two-hour wait, to submit her application for a new green card.

"This is so frustrating," said Secord, who is married to a U.S. citizen. "I always feel a foreigner here no matter how hard I work to contribute to society."

Some of the several hundred others line when the doors opened, including those who had camped out Tuesday night, were not as bitter.

"I'm from Germany, I can take a lot," said Alfreda Hoppa, who had waited in line since 4 a.m.

INS spokesman Rico Cabrera said legal immigrants will not lose their status or be deported if they fail to replace their green cards by Monday.

"But they should make all the effort to avoid problems when applying for jobs or seeking (Social Security) benefits," he said.

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