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.

Katherine Wagner
Via e-mail

Road rage all over
Well, it is obvious for all to see that Ron Kirk, John Ware, and Don Hicks are all about big business and not representing their constituents. I live in North Dallas and I am a political activist, but I have never read the legal notices to determine upcoming issues ["Road rage," April 15].

The proof is in the pudding. The city deliberately set about burying this project. Ms. [Tommie] Allen is talking about the terrible state of the streets in her neighborhood. Well, we have the same problem in North Dallas. Preston Road is a disgrace.

It is time for the big shots with the big heads to start providing services and putting money into Dallas' infrastructure instead of all of these projects like the arena, Trinity River, and the Olympics, which will not benefit 99 percent of Dallas citizens.

These public-private partnerships have become private code words for ripping off Dallas citizens who pay their taxes and don't get rebates.

Linda Moore
Via e-mail

An old yeehaw speaks
To Vanessa Collins' letter in the April 29 Dallas Observer: Vanessa, bluegrass only appeals to "old yeehaws who won't let it die?" You're half right, oh half-baked one! Bluegrass is not about to die, and if you enjoy the GlitterChix, then by God, you love their bluegrass roots. Enjoy the Beatles? Nirvana? Grateful Dead? Well then, missy, you sure as hell love bluegrass. When you mature a little more musically and reread your letter, you'll understand. I hope.

As for Robert Wilonsky ["What's not to like?" April 15], what's with the crack about nobody giving a damn about Bill Monroe or Patsy Montana? Patsy? Well, maaaaybe. I know you understand and revere Bill Monroe's influence on music and I know you're just being a wise-ass. Since you do it with charm, all is forgiven. I agree the Dixie Chicks are a little over the top these days, but if you can get the Erwin girls to kick off those skanky stilettos and pick for a while on your back porch, I'll bet Mr. Monroe up in the high lonesome will be smiling.

Via e-mail

You are somebody
Everyone at Hash Brown's Hole in the Wall jam last night got a kick out of your reviewer's description of us as being rotten musicians [Dallas Observer Music Awards, April 29]. But if I may interject something without being didactic or facetious, Hash doesn't suffer Stevie clones or Lynyrd Skynyrd wannabes lightly. Most of us "woodshed" like hell on nights we don't jam, and the jams offer us "blues wannabes" a chance to try out our chops and learn from one of the most patient and easygoing, not to mention kick-ass, guitar players around! We have to start somewhere, and Brown, Terry, and Bobby offer us wannabes that opportunity.

There is a saying around the metroplex that you are nobody until the Observer's "music critics" slam you. I guess this means we have arrived! To Mr. Wilonsky: Deep Ellum is a clone of Austin's 6th Street, and I pity you if you think blues and swing are one and the same. How ironic that Blind Lemon Jefferson graces the cover and feature.

Randy Williams
Via e-mail

You guys at the Observer continue to bash the excellence of Brian "Hash Brown" Calway. You don't publish the award for best blues band then bash him. This man has made so many contributions to the Dallas blues scene. Who cares if he is from up North? That has nothing to do with playing the blues.

He's contributed to the talent of so many young blues artists, including Shawn Pittman, Johnny Moeller, Paul Size, and Holland K. Smith. Without Hash, I don't think these guys would have had a chance to play in Dallas. Try breaking into the scene in Austin. He has also contributed to my learning of blues guitar.

As far as the talent at his blues jams, many blues enthusiasts would pay big bucks to see weekly performances by Sam Meyers or other musicians. Robert Wilonsky needs to realize the impact this man is having on many musicians' lives and careers.

Ralph Ibarra
Via e-mail

In last week's Dallas Observer, Christine Biederman's story "Vapor wars" contained three errors. The story should have said that Tom Porter--not Todd--is a shareholder in the computer game company ION Storm. The correct title of an earlier ION game is Dominion: Storm over Gift 3--not Gift 2. The game G-Nome is a first-person shooting game, not a real-time strategy game. We apologize for the errors.

A photograph accompanying the April 29 feature story "Bully pulpit" was incorrectly credited. The picture of consumer advocate Mary Keller was actually taken by photographer John Anderson.


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