January 19, 2012
Boro Gets New Immigration Office
For years, residents of the borough trying to become American citizens have had to venture to Manhattan and wait with immigrants from all around the city. Now, they will no longer have to cross the river to make an appointment. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services have, at last, officially opened a field office where the immigrants are – Queens.
The new two-floor office, located at 27-35 Jackson Ave. in Long Island City, opened its doors on Dec. 13. Before the office opened, residents would have to travel to the Jacob K. Javitz Federal Building in Manhattan to take care of their naturalization needs. The new office serves the population of Queens and Brooklyn.
Dennis Bunce, field office director, said the government attempts to place offices where the people are. Queens, the most diverse county in the country, is bustling with immigrants. According to the 2010 US Census, nearly half of the borough is foreign born, with the largest number of people emigrating from China, Guyana and Ecuador. The USCIS plans to eventually open more offices throughout the five boroughs.
Immigration Services Officers will be able to conduct 120 naturalization interviews every day at the new center. The spacious office includes a support center for identification photos and fingerprinting. New citizens can be sworn in at the site’s ceremony room.
Make The Road New York, an immigration advocacy group, hopes USCIS partners with organizations in the community to spread the word about the naturalization services offered. Deputy Director Javier Valdes said there is a negative stereotype about immigration offices because many confuse USCIS with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which detains and deports illegal immigrants. Partnering with community organizations could make residents less hesitant to seek assistance.
Irwine Clare, managing director of Caribbean Immigrant Services based in Jamaica, is pleased the borough finally has an immigration office to recognize the diverse population. He said many of the people he serves in Southeast Queens were traveling up to 90 minutes on the bus or train to visit immigration offices in Manhattan or Long Island. “It will make the whole process of those who seek immigration and benefits a whole lot easier, especially for those in Southeast Queens,” he said.
Though the office has been open for more than a month, USCIS is planning a grand opening celebration Friday, Jan. 20 at 10 a.m. Guests will have the opportunity to take a tour of the new facility and learn about all of the services the site has to offer. Bunce anticipates the USCIS will serve 300 to 500 people daily after the grand opening. The office is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
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