INS barks back
I note that your recent article about the INS office ["Huddled masses," April 8] has generated several letters to the editor that echo reporter Juliana Barbassa's "totally objective" piece.

As the acting district director for the Dallas office for nearly one year and a 33-year veteran of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, you will have to forgive me if my comments are not as objective as your reporter and your correspondents.

First, I don't deny the lines around our building. However, approximately one-third to one-half of those in line simply don't need to be here. Why, for example, does an entire family need to stand in line when one person can make an inquiry, pick up a form, or be present for an appointment? And speaking of forms, no, we don't count the forms we give out, as your reporter quotes me as saying. We do count those coming through the door and collect data on what they are visiting us for. Believe it or not, this is a rather common business practice to help in future planning.

Now, back to the issue of INS forms. While we do make forms available at our office, we actually discourage visiting the office for the sole purpose of picking up a form. Why? Because the forms are available from home via the telephone or internet. The INS Forms Line at 1-800-870-FORM (3676) will provide the needed forms usually in less than 10 days. Even faster is the INS Web site on the Internet. At www.ins.doj.gov, the vast majority of INS forms can be immediately downloaded. Finally, most common questions can be answered by calling the "ASK IMMIGRATION" automated line at (214) 655-5384. Keep in mind this is a trunk line and is actually answered in California.

Now, I want to address the issue of those individuals that must come to the office for an interview or to make a status inquiry. One letter to the Dallas Observer from a writer claiming to be an immigration attorney makes some rather unpleasant allegations about certain members of my staff conducting interviews. Without getting too defensive, I want to point out that I meet regularly with the local chapter of AILA--the American Immigration Lawyers Association--and they have my direct phone line if they are experiencing problems or have specific concerns. Since your correspondent chose not to identify him or herself, I have no way of knowing if this allegation had any validity or how to respond to it. That individual, and all your readers, should be aware that neither I nor the Justice Department, of which INS is a part, tolerates unprofessional behavior on the part of its employees. If someone wishes to come forward with specific charges, I would welcome the information.

In the meantime, the very nature of our job invites criticism and cheap shots. We are not perfect by any measure, but given the resources and monumental caseload we handle, I will match my staff against any corporate or governmental entity in the country.

William G. Harrington
Acting District Director
U.S. Department of Justice

Regarding your article about the Dallas Business Committee for the Arts ["Art attack," April 22], I am amazed that any of my colleagues would think that a request for basic financial or administrative information would be unusual. As most nonprofit administrators know (and all should know), the 990 tax form, submitted annually to the IRS by each of us, must be made available for anyone to look at upon request. Indeed, nonprofit organizations hold a place of trust in the community and should be able to answer any of the questions that DBCA requests without a problem.

I am also puzzled by the inference that DBCA should give grants to nonprofit organizations. That was never its purpose. DBCA strengthens the arts by bringing the arts to corporations and by creating programs (Leadership Arts, the Obelisk Awards) that promote corporate participation in the arts. Pat Porter, her staff, and members do an excellent job of this, nurturing board leaders for arts organizations, creating recognition for corporate support of the arts, and building communities of artists, art administrators, and businesspeople who work together.

Also, your article made reference to the actual Obelisk award as "little brass, bois d'arc wood-and-limestone numbers in the shape of the Washington Monument." I am sorry to see your writer dismiss and devalue the work of an artist in this way. The Obelisk Award is an original work of art created by David Hickman, who is a well-known, very well-respected Dallas sculptor. It is in no way a derivative or copy of the Washington Monument.

In closing, I would like your writers and your reading public to know that Dallas Business Committee for the Arts is a worthy organization that enjoys the support of a very great number of individuals, businesses, and nonprofit organizations.

The few that feel they have to create a "revolt" over filling out a simple form with 20 "yes/no" questions about basic business practices should revisit their responsibilities to the community. They do not represent the majority of arts organizations, small, middle-size, or otherwise.

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