A recently rescinded federal deadline of today for immigrants to apply for new green cards has added to widespread uncertainty about the controversial requirement that affects more than 1 million people nationwide, immigrant advocates say.
"There's rampant confusion all over the place," said Juan Jose Gutierrez, executive director of One Stop Immigration, an Eastside social service organization.
Many remain unaware that the Immigration and Naturalization Service--reeling from an eleventh-hour deluge of applicants--announced Sept. 2 that the deadline was being extended six months, until March 20, 1995.
Only about 500,000 immigrants have applied to date, officials say, although between 1 million and 1.5 million immigrants nationwide are required to obtain new documents or face loss of proof of legal residence. All of those affected were issued existing documentation before 1979.
INS officials say they have worked hard to disseminate information about the new cutoff date to community agencies, the media and individual immigrants.
"There's some confusion, but I wouldn't call it rampant," said Christopher Fowler, assistant district director for the INS' huge Los Angeles district, which stretches from San Clemente north to San Luis Obispo and east to San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
To date, Fowler said, about 125,000 immigrants residing within the district have submitted applications. Overall, Fowler estimated, about 500,000 must get new cards.
The INS embarked on the ambitious green card replacement program more than two years ago in an effort to replace counterfeit-prone paperwork with newer, tamper-resistant documents. Current green cards, actually pinkish in color, include each bearer's photograph, thumbprint and signature, and are readable by agency scanners.
From the outset, critics have faulted INS implementation and maintained that the program is an unnecessary hardship, particularly on the elderly. Applicants must pay a $75 fee.