Boro leaders joined federal immigration officials Friday to cut the ribbon on a new immigration office that opened recently in Long Island City.
The office, at 27-35 Jackson Ave., replaces the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ previous offices in Woodside and Garden City, L.I., and can service up to 500 customers a day from Queens and Brooklyn.
“We are happy to be open for business in Queens,” said Andrea Quarantillo, the New York district director for USCIS.
Quarantillo said Long Island City was chosen as a new spot for an immigration office due to its location. The office is within walking distance of the Queensboro Plaza, Queens Plaza and Court Square subway stations as well as many bus lines.
But in recent years, the USCIS has been working to set up offices to match demographics that need the services, and Queens is the most ethnically diverse county in the nation.
“We view ourselves as being part of the community and we have moved into the community to better support it,” said Alejandro Mayorkas, director of USCIS.
The new 48,328-foot office is in a repurposed former warehouse and encompasses two floors of a four-story building. Among the services the office offers are naturalization interviews, adjustment interviews for green card applicants and Biometrics appointments, a process where immigrants have their fingerprints, photos and signatures recorded electronically.
The closed Woodside office originally only did biometrics appointments.
“It’s customer-service friendly,” Quarantillo said. “It’s one-stop shopping.”
USCIS’s new location includes private interview offices, large waiting rooms and a naturalization ceremony room. Those who need services will not have to make a separate trip to schedule their appointment, either. Through a new system called InfoPass, immigrants can schedule their appointments online at any time.
“This is really a big deal,” said U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria), who attended the ribbon-cutting with various other Queens elected officials. “It’s going to mean such an improvement in services.”
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said the office was a great addition to Long Island City.
“We’re so grateful to the immigrants who continue to come to Queens,” Van Bramer said.
Borough President Helen Marshall said Queens was the birthplace of the United Nations and remains a place that welcomes everyone.
“Immigrant rights and protections have been a priority of mine for the last 30 years,” Marshall said.
About 50 percent of Queens residents were not born in America and residents collectively speak 100 different languages.
“It’s great news that the federal government decided to place an immigration office in the most diverse community in the world,” said state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria).
USCIS also dedicated the ceremony room in honor of Gwynne MacPherson-Williams, a longtime USCIS employee in New York who died in 2011.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cn
©2012 Community News Group
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