Nearly two dozen state senators have joined the chorus in asking the federal government to reconsider moving a vital immigration office to the borders of Bloomington and Eden Prairie, where there is no regularly scheduled bus service.
The letter strongly encourages the U.S. General Services Administration to reconsider moving the site because of the burden it will put on residents in their districts who rely on public transportation to access immigration services.
“One missed immigration appointment could have dire consequences for members of Minnesota’s immigrant and refugee communities,” said the letter, sent this week.
While the debate has no real connection to state government, one of the authors of the letter, Sen. Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, admits the letter is intended to put further pressure on federal authorities.
“Is this the best use of taxpayers’ dollars? It’s not accessible to a large contingent of my constituents and to people coming to the offices from more than just Minnesota. It’s just a hurdle to get there.”
Several members of the state’s congressional delegation already have asked the GSA to reconsider.
The GSA has signed a $14 million contract to move the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from its current location near the Mall of America 11 miles west to a new building in Bloomington, bordering Eden Prairie.
The new building will be 3 miles from the nearest bus stop. The GSA has admitted it misread a bus schedule in reviewing applications.
The move, which is expected in September, has raised the ire of immigration attorneys and advocates, who say many of their clients rely on public transportation to get to the center.
The Minnesota USCIS office serves all of the state as well as the Dakotas and a large swath of western Wisconsin and serves a function unlike the immigration court system. Last year it saw about 28,000 people who scheduled interviews for such things as job visas or used its information center or came to pick up citizenship certificates. It processed more than 13,000 applications for naturalization in 2013.