Kendo McDonald only slept a couple of hours a night at his home in
Queens. The rest of the night, he camped out in a sleeping bag in
front of the office of Citizenship and Immigration Services at
Federal Plaza. His mission was to secure an
appointment with the immigrant agency for his client. Because the
agency can only take up to about 150 walk-in cases a day, people
started to line up earlier and earlier, and the line got longer and longer.
“Before I didn’t have to do this 3 o’clock in the morning thing,” he
told the New
York Times. “I could come at 8 am.” By the time the
office opens, a line usually wraps around the building.
But McDonald might be out of a job and this long line might soon be
history. The immigrancy agency has introduced an online appointment system that
will allow immigrants to make an appointment without going to Federal Plaza themselves.
“By the fall of this year, I predict that there will be no lines
outside of the federal district offices of the United States,” said
Eduardo Aguirre, director of United States Citizen and Immigration Services.
Following Miami, Dallas and Los Angeles, the immigration agency in
New York City implemented Infopass in late July to help curb the
waiting line for walk-in cases.
According to the agency, 1,400 people visit the New York office on a
Jason Wong was one of the more than 350,000 people who visited the
New York office last year.
“I waited for hours and hours outside of the building and then a few
more hours inside” he said. “This new system will definitely help cut
the waiting time.”
Immigrant officials acknowledged that people often have to wait for several
hours to do business with the agency but had not done much to help
fasten the process, until an official in Miami saw people lining up
on Sunday night to secure spot on Monday’s morning. His staff member
came up with the idea of using the Internet-based appointment system.
“It’s a win-win for everyone,” said agency spokesman Chris Bently.
It is too soon to tell whether infopass can actually help reduce the
lines in New York. So far the results in Miami and Los Angeles have
shown that it actually does.
But critics said that Infopass is not for everyone.
“It’s great for people who use the Internet. But what about the
other half of the population who don’t use it” said Roger Elasmar, an
immigration lawyer. “My experience is that most of my clients and a
lot of immigrants do not go online to check
More importantly, immigrant advocates argued that by choosing to
spend its already tight budget on infopass, the agency ignore the real
“They need to have money to hire staff and to put in systems to deal
with these unacceptable backlogs,” said Dan Smulian of the New York
He added that Infopass will only change the way people have to wait.
“Instead of waiting three or four hours outside to be told that their case
is pending, now they will get an appointment online and go there to
be told that their case is still pending.”
The waiting time for a green card in New York City now averages 25
months, compared to 14 months in Los Angeles, according to the
The program will be implemented nationwide later this year. It will
be available in 12 languages â€“ Arabic, Chinese, Creole English,
French, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Tagalog, Russian and
An immigrant from Bangkok, Thailand, Chaleampon Ritthichai is the editor of The Citizen.Â
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