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COUNTY TO GET IMMIGRATION OFFICE; CENTER SEEKS TO OFFER RESIDENCY SERVICE.

Byline: Michael Coit Daily News Staff Writer

The INS is establishing a Ventura County office to bolster its battle against illegal immigration and plans to expand to offer residency, citizenship and other services, officials said.

After posting a supervisory agent at the Border Patrol office on the Camarillo Airport grounds in August, the Immigration and Naturalization Service added four special agents within the past week.

A total staff of 22 special agents is expected by Jan. 1, when a separate 3,000-square-foot office is opened, said Dan Hudson, the supervisory agent.

Hudson said the INS recently gained federal funding approval for a 50,000-square-foot office for 83 special agents, immigration officials and clerks in Ventura County. His goal is to open the larger, full-service office within a year.

``This is kind of virgin territory. We handled it out of L.A. for many years, but it's difficult to do,'' Hudson said. ``It's a long way from downtown L.A. and our office wants to decentralize.''

The INS so far has established regional offices in Ventura and Riverside counties.

The initial move to Ventura County is needed to improve enforcement, primarily in investigating businesses and industries that hire illegal immigrants, Hudson said. INS agents also investigate document fraud and the smuggling of illegal immigrants into this country.

The INS agents working in the county jail to identify illegal immigrants for deportation also will work out of the office, Hudson said.

``As soon as I find adequate office space, then they will start sending me more agents. They would like to have a temporary site selected by the end of the year,'' Hudson said.

For the past three decades, the uniformed Border Patrol has been responsible for most immigration enforcement. With only three full-time officers, however, the Border Patrol welcomes the INS presence, said Mike Molloy, patrol agent in charge of the county office.

``It's an excellent shot in the arm for the county,'' he said.

The Border Patrol office was established to deal with a proliferation of illegal immigrants working in the county's fields and orchards in the mid-1960s. While agriculture still is the county's top industry, illegal immigrants increasingly are found in construction, business and industry, Molloy explained.

``The agriculture is still primarily illegals. But also they realize there's not much money in agriculture and can get a better job working in industry,'' he said. ``A lot of them work for temp agencies and large businesses will keep a basic work force and when a need comes they will hire a temp agency to fill in.''

Enforcement, though, will be more than complemented by services for legal immigrants, officials said.

The larger, full-service office would include deportation officers, officials who review residency, citizenship and related cases, and a public information staff, for a total of 83 INS employees including special agents.

Those services now are only offered at the federal building on Los Angeles Street in downtown Los Angeles.

``We're setting up to help the local community in becoming legal and becoming citizens and staying on the right side of the law,'' Hudson said.

Congressman Elton Gallegly, R-Oxnard, said he has worked with INS officials to establish the office in hopes of improving such services.

``For those who have a legal right to be here, this is a real plus. For those who have no legal right to be here, it helps facilitate the needs of law enforcement,'' he said.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 10, 1997
Words:570
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