Federal immigration authorities want to open a 110-person office in Ventura County--one of three new offices the Immigration and Naturalization Service hopes to staff in the suburbs surrounding Los Angeles.
Other facilities would be added in Orange County and either Riverside County or San Bernardino County.
“It would allow us to be closer to the people who need the service,” said Richard Rogers, INS Los Angeles district director.
The INS already has four employees stationed at a Border Patrol office in Camarillo. Those four employees, however, work exclusively on a program to deport convicted criminals who are in the country illegally.
In contrast, the proposed Ventura County office would house all the programs now offered by the INS in Los Angeles. New immigrants seeking citizenship could meet with caseworkers without leaving the county.
Officers enforcing immigration law throughout Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties could be based in that office.
Rogers, who has pushed the idea for years, said having more suburban offices will help bring in those new immigrants who need INS services but may be intimidated or deterred by the long drive into Los Angeles.
“Especially for elderly people who are remotely located in these areas to come all the way into downtown, I don’t think that’s appropriate,” he said.
Rogers said the plan has cleared the House of Representatives and is awaiting approval in the Senate. Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley), a vocal advocate of strict immigration laws, announced his support for the move Tuesday, saying he has long wanted a local INS office.
“This new office will help those who come to our country legally, while at the same time increasing enforcement against those who come here illegally,” he said in a statement.