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Voices / A Forum for Community Issues | Gripe

The INS Response

January 10, 1998|RICHARD ROGERS | Richard Rogers is director of the L.A. district office of the INS

Let me begin by offering my apologies to Alvin Mares for the confusion and inconvenience he experienced in his dealings with my office. Given the volume of people we serve and the complexity of our nation's immigration laws, it is understandable that some people come away frustrated. Having said that, however, I want him to know that we are not making excuses. What we are doing is making changes, changes that we believe will enable us to provide better service.

Accomplishing that will be no small challenge. The Los Angeles district office of the INS is one of the largest and busiest of the agency's offices nationwide, serving more than 2,000 customers a day. While we have received additional personnel, our growth has not kept pace with the burgeoning volume of applications. Regardless, there are several innovations in the offing designed to address the concerns Mr. Mares raised.

The INS is expanding its use of direct mail whereby certain immigration applications are sent to a central processing facility or service center, bypassing local offices. The aim is to improve efficiency and enable local offices to focus more on individual needs. Further, benefit seekers who file applications with the processing center have access to a newly enhanced automated telephone system that provides callers with "real time" information on the status of their case.

The Los Angeles INS office already has established an appointment system for applicants seeking an employment authorization and it is working well. We are looking into expanding that system to include other types of benefits as well.

To ensure that our information unit staffers keep up to date on legislation, policy and procedures, we have instituted mandatory weekly training sessions.

The Los Angeles office is in the process of decentralizing its operations and will open a series of full-service sub-offices. Proposed locations include Riverside or San Bernardino, Ventura County and Orange County. The move will enable residents in outlying areas to obtain immigration services without making the trip to downtown Los Angeles.

These are just a few of the measures my office is undertaking in an effort to make our services more efficient and convenient. And in fact, that is the rationale behind our practice of offering a special service window for attorneys. Because attorneys typically come to us with several cases at a time, we have found that this approach relieves potential delays in the lines set aside for the general public.

While complaints like Mr. Mares' remind us that we still have a long way to go, I am pleased with the progress we have made. Case in point: A recent review of our information unit by the prestigious accounting firm of Arthur Andersen noted that our officers were courteous and professional in responding to customers. Professionalism and customer service are two of this agency's top priorities.

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