BY TRONE DOWD
Two Queens elected officials are calling to open a crucial service for incoming immigrants in the borough.
Borough President Melinda Katz and U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) have renewed their push to bring the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) back to the borough by opening a Queens field office in Jamaica. The office would handle applications for citizenship, green cards and other aspects of the American immigration process. It does not, however, conduct immigration enforcement of any kind.
The rekindled interest in the matter comes right at the start of President Donald Trump’s first week in office. Trump has said that he wants to toughen laws that allow immigrants into the country, particularly from the Muslim community. In fact, on Tuesday, Trump signed an executive order that would both greenlight the construction of a wall along the U.S./Mexican border and cut funds to sanctuary cities that protect immigrants who enter the U.S. illegally. He is also set to limit access to the United States for refugees and visa holders of majority Muslim countries.
“Queens is home to over 2.3 million residents, at least 48 percent of whom were born abroad,” Katz said. “Many people – both citizens and non-citizens – are feeling tremendous uncertainty about the future. I’ve long proposed the existing Addabbo Federal Building in Jamaica as an ideal permanent location for the long-displaced Queens field office to enhance customer service and better meet demand. Its optimal location already hosts a federal agency, has vacant space, and has abundant access to mass transit.”
Today, the only field office located in the five boroughs is in lower Manhattan. There is also a second location in Holtsville, Long Island.
“I urge USCIS to further consider Jamaica for a permanent Queens Field Office, and render my office ready to host or assist in facilitating further development of this viable option,” Katz continued.
Katz first proposed the idea last March following a tour of the then-newly assessed Addabbo building. The building was found to be underutilized by the General Services Administration and underwent several studies on how to best use the space efficiently. In a letter to the the GSA, Katz called the unused floors “optimal space” for a Queens immigration field office.
The building, which is located on Parsons Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue, is within walking distance of the Jamaica Bus Terminal on 165th Street and Merrick Blvd, the Jamaica Long Island Railroad Station and the Jamaica/Parsons Boulevard subway station.
Meeks said that there has been a notable uptick in immigrants contacting his office about their chances of being deported by the Trump Administration.
“My office has helped thousands of constituents with their immigration matters,” Meeks said. “Yet, never before have my constituents shown as much concern about their immigration status due to the incoming administration. We believe that families should be well-informed and they deserve comprehensive assistance so they have the best opportunity to keep their families together and whole.”
Queens originally had an office located in Long Island City. The office was opened in January 2012 but was forced to close and relocate in 2015 due to flooding. According to the Queens Borough President’s office, the facility “served high numbers of customers, averaging 180 naturalization applications and 130 adjustment of status applications per day.”