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HIAS protests cut in services for naturalization applicants

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NEW YORK, Dec. 10 (JTA) — The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society is voicing concern about a reduction in the number of fingerprinting services available for naturalization applicants. “This is going to increase the backlog,” said Judy Epstein, director of communications for HIAS. “Applicants are already waiting almost two years.” Some 3,800 centers, called Designated Fingerprinting Services, were terminated earlier this month, and naturalization applicants must now go to a fingerprinting center operated by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. HIAS had been one of the organizations providing fingerprinting services under an arrangement with the INS. The INS hopes to improve efficiency and prevent fraud by handling the fingerprinting of applicants for American citizenship. The first of some 40 fingerprinting centers will be opened in the coming weeks in Chicago, Los Angles, Miami, Newark, New York and San Francisco. Eventually, INS plans to create a total of 80 satellite offices nationwide. Mobile units will be scheduled to make visits to communities not served by the support centers. The new INS centers, called Application Support Centers, will only provide fingerprinting services to applicants for naturalization. HIAS plans to monitor the new system closely to try to ensure that the naturalization process is not further delayed.

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