July 12, 1995
By Yolanda Reynolds
Local congressional leaders, U.S. Representatives Zoe Lofgren, Norm Mineta of San Jose and Sam Farr (representing Monterrey-Watsonville and Santa Cruz), all three of whom are Democrats, announced that the INS office in San Jose would immediately increase the number of hearing officers by 8 for a total of 16 officers.
A Task Force studying the naturalization process concluded that the San Jose office had the longest waiting period for applicants for citizenship of any in the nation.
Thomas J. Schiltgen, INS District Director headquartered in San Francisco, said that the added personnel should be able to decrease the waiting period for processing by half. Until now that process has taken 18 months to complete.
In San Jose, the INS office has been able to process between 1,000 to 1,300 applicants each month. The added staff is expected to increase that number to 2,000 – 2,500 per month.
Besides a huge backlog of applicants waiting to be processed there has been an increase of applicants. Conjecture is that this has occurred for two reasons, Proposition 187 and an awareness of the efforts of many from community based organizations to the local INS itself to speed up the naturalization process which has encouraged many to apply who before thought the process was endless and futile.
Recent laws have made many more people eligible for citizenship. This follows legislation awarding amnesty to those who came to work in various U.S. industries and just never returned home. Many of these people had lived most of their lives in the United States, their children by reason of birth were citizens and those who wanted to be citizens were given the opportunity as well.
Congresspersons Mineta and Lofgren emphasized the personal importance of U.S. citizenship to immigrant families.
Norm Mineta in answer to questions regarding the current attitude of some members of Congress towards immigrants who want a greatly restricted immigration policy and few protections to immigrants even if they are legal, replied “there are those who scapegoat immigrants to explain the cause of the various problems the nation is facing.”
Some blame immigrants for most of the crime committed in the country, others blame them as well for lack of good employment opportunities.
Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren explained that the expansion in San Jose was made possible by the lease of office space for $1 per year in a County building that has been almost empty.
Applicants will continue to begin the naturalization process as they have in the past at the Federal offices in downtown San Jose. Actual processing will now occur at both locations.
It is anticipated that many new citizens will become eligible to vote in San Jose in the 1996 presidential election due to the increased number of heating officers.
Those new citizens, and others who have not previously voted and who now wish to vote, must register to vote thirty days prior to an election date and need not register again unless they miss voting in subsequent general elections. Continued failure to vote will cause their names to be purged from the voter list.
Foreign born U.S. residents may apply for citizenship if they have lived in the country legally for five years and have no criminal record. They are also required to have a working knowledge of English and a basic knowledge of U.S history. Two organizations that offer such instruction are CET (Center for Employment Training) and Catholic Charities.
CET can be reached at 728-4551, Catholic Charities at 944-0691 and the INS at 291-7876. © La Oferta Newspaper.