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INS will boost local presence

Tim Mutrie

The Immigration and Naturalization Service will open a GlenwoodSprings office staffed with three agents and two detention officersnext fall, according to an INS chief.The new office, to open next September, will be one of six toopen across Colorado, increasing the agency’s presence statewideby 30 officers, said George Matheos, chief of investigations withthe INS, Denver district.Matheos said an October 1998 congressional action mandated thenew offices “to give better service to communities where we haven’thad people physically present in the past.”This is something that’s happening all the way from the Carolinasto Salt Lake City,” he said. Presently, the closest INS officeto the Roaring Fork Valley is in Grand Junction.The Glenwood office will address problems like smugglers who bringillegal aliens in, document vendors who sell them documents, andemployers who hire them, knowing that they are illegal aliens,”Matheos said. Deportation, he said, will not be its function.The new office will function in accordance with a newly formulatedand controversial five-point, five-year federal INS strategy,which will reportedly shift the agency’s focus away from deportation.Silvia Barbera, director of Carbondale-based advocacy organizationAsistencia para Latinos, said she has known about the new officefor about a year. It’s unclear, she said, what it will mean forillegal aliens and the Latino community at large living in thevalley.”It’s going to be different and very interesting to see what happens,”Barbera said. “From what I understand, they’ll be focusing onarresting [illegal aliens] with serious criminal offenses.”They have told me that they’re not going to be doing raids -that is not their interest,” she said. “They’re not going afternormal people who are just trying to work here.”I’m speculating about this,” Barbera continued, “but there isa percentage of people who are illegal and who are working inthe valley. So if people start being deported, the businessesare going to have trouble finding people to work for them.”Barbera said she hopes her agency can work with the local INSofficials to aid Latino clients. “It all depends on the attitudeof the officers who come,” she said.”When the INS came to our Latino Networking Counsel a couple monthsago,” said Marie Munday, Latino-Anglo resource officer with theAspen Police Department, “they said their intention is to onlygo after felons or people who have committed crimes of moral turpitude.That’s always been their practice here. So that’s not a big change,but it’s a big mystery about what’s going to happen in Glenwood.”The question that has arisen among the people who work with Latinosis, if they’re only deporting people who have committed felonies,why are they going to have five agents here?” Munday said. “Therearen’t that many felons in the valley.””Our agents are constantly busy going after criminal aliens, wehaven’t been concentrating on employers or smugglers,” said KrisSchaufelberger, special agent with the INS in Grand Junction.”But if one there’s one agent handling criminals, that’s goingto leave the others open for other immigration enforcement issues,”Schaufelberger said of the new, five-agent Glenwood Springs office.She said one reason for the five agents in Glenwood Springs wouldbe to help with enforcement along the I-70 corridor, a known routefor smugglers of illegal aliens.”[Colorado State] troopers turn aliens loose daily,” she said.”I don’t know if we’ll ever have enough detention space or manpowerto keep up with what’s going on out there.”Schaufelberger said the INS will not be conducting “street sweeps”or “raids” in Glenwood Springs or anywhere else for that matter.”That’s history,” she said.If there were to be a heavy-handed INS crackdown on the valley’sillegal aliens, Munday offered an ominous prediction.”If they deported everyone that was illegal in Aspen, I’m afraidwe wouldn’t have a bed made or a meal served,” she said.


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