DODGE CITY, Kansas – The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has a mobile office set up in Dodge City this week and appointments with 75 immigrants.
“It’s to help people stay current, it’s to help them obtain that path toward citizenship,” said Melissa McCoy, Project Development Coordinator for Dodge City.
Four USCIS staff members are in town from Wichita conducting necessary interviews and fingerprinting with local immigrants, in order to keep them up to date with their documentation. The appointments can be for Visa renewal, permanent residency, or citizenship.
The last census found that 6.5 percent Kansas residents were born in another country, but in Dodge City more than 28 percent of residents are foreign born. In Garden City it’s 20 percent and in Liberal it’s 32 percent. The closest office for southwest Kansans is in Wichita, that means a four hour-plus drive each way for an appointment that generally takes about 20 minutes.
For privacy reasons, KSN couldn’t speak with any of the immigrants using the mobile services, but McCoy said they’ve been very appreciative of the opportunity, saying it’s a lot easier for them to get to Dodge than it is to get to Wichita or Oklahoma City.
So with a great need for immigration services, why isn’t there a permanent office in the area? The answer is money. A new office would be paid for by the fees that immigrants pay during the application process, but right now it’s not in the budget.
“We take that responsibility very seriously, and it’s not a decision we make lightly to place a new office,” said USCIS Spokesperson Tim Counts.
So for now, USCIS and Dodge, Garden, and Liberal will continue working together to get as much service to local immigrants as possible.
“Our goal is to increase the frequency, because we obviously have demand, but this is our first step,” McCoy said.