Vili Lolohea came to the United States from his native Tonga more than 15 years ago. He washed cars, worked as a dishwasher, and has been a bricklayer for 11 years.
Lolohea, his U.S.-born wife, Julie, and two of their four children (4 1/2, joked the pregnant Julie), were among about a dozen people waiting for doors to open Tuesday at the Immigration and Naturalization Service's legalization office, 2990 S. Main, so Lolohea could apply for the government's amnesty program for illegal aliens.Wednesday was the deadline to apply. The Salt Lake office will stay open to midnight to accommodate procrastinators.
Nationwide, the government expected 2 million to 4 million applications. As of Monday, 1.37 million had been filed and 470,000 agricultural worker applications.
In New York, a federal appeals court Wednesday extended the deadline, giving many aliens with U.S.-born children another two weeks to register. The state had been seeking a 60-day extension because there was initial confusion about the program's application to parents of U.S.-born children on welfare.
Aliens likely to need public assistance, such as welfare, don't qualify for amnesty. New York state asked whether poor parents with U.S.-born children on Aid to Families with Dependent Children would qualify, because technically the children are the welfare recipients. INS first said such parents were not eligible, then decided they were.
The order by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals applies only to the illegal alien program in New York state. It was not immediately determined whether it would apply to all aliens or only those with U.S.-born children.
Allan Speirs, chief legalization officer for Utah, said the ruling probably won't affect Utah. Federal district court rulings apply only in their own jurisdiction, and while other courts might take the ruling into account if they had a similar case, that issue hasn't arisen in Utah, he said.
The comparatively placid office in Salt Lake City was a far cry from those in Florida, California and Texas, where thousands of undocumented aliens camped out in long lines. Houston's legalization center, the nation's busiest, accepted a record 6,000 applications Tuesday and more than 106,000 in the past year.
In Houston, vendors sold tacos and sandwiches to those in line Tuesday. In Albuquerque, immigration officials hired a Mexican band to entertain the 400 people queued up.
"I think we burned out two photocopiers in the past two days," said Patrice Parilli, director of the legalization program at Catholic Charities in San Francisco, where more than 25,000 aliens from 200 countries have applied for amnesty in the past year.
"I'd been here that long, I thought, `They can't bother me anymore,' " said Lolohea at the Salt Lake office. It was on Julie's urging that he finally came in.
"His wife wants to take care of this," said Julie. "We're some of those last-day people anyway.'
Another young woman, who didn't want to give her name, brought her baby and toddler, both born in the United States. "For a long time I was scared to come, and I just didn't have the money," she said as she watched a Spanish-language video that helps people fill out the form. A friend loaned her $100 so she could apply.
Speirs said no one will be turned away Wednesday if he gets in line before midnight.
They need only fill out an application and pay the fee, then they have two months to come up with full documentation and a medical report, said Speirs. The fee is $185 for adults, $50 for children and a maximum $420 for a family.
A bill to extend the deadline was defeated last week in the Senate. The Wednesday deadline does not, however, apply to agricultural workers, who are under a separate program. They have until Nov. 30 to apply.
Under the Immigration Reform and Control Act, signed by President Reagan Nov. 6, 1986, illegal aliens who can prove that they've lived continuously in the United States since Jan. 1, 1982, can apply for legal-resident status.
Legalization offices opened six months later (by coincidence May 5, the Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo), to operate for one year.
In Utah, about 2,500 people have applied for general legalization. About as many have applied through the special agricultural worker program, which has more liberal requirements. Those workers only have to prove that they worked 90 days in agricultural employment between May 1, 1985, and May 1, 1986.
The office has finished processing about 2,000 of the general legalization applications and about 2,100 of the agricultural applications.
Most have been recommended for approval. Fewer than 200 of the general legalization applicants have been recommended for denial less than 10 percent and slightly more of the agricultural applications, about 300, said Speirs. (Final approval depends on results of a six-month security check.)
Speirs said applications have increased as the deadline approaches Some days last week, 70 or 80 people came in. The office stayed open over the weekend and had quite a few applications Saturday but only three Sunday, probably because of the weather.
Totals nationwide and in Utah have been only about half of what the government expected, said Speirs. It was estimated that 20,000 to 30,000 illegal aliens lived in Utah, of whom about 14,000 would be eligible for legalization. But it soon was clear applications wouldn't reach those numbers.
With another six months for agricultural workers to apply, he said, "we could reach 7,000."
Anthony Lopez, director of the Utah Immigration Project of Catholic Community Services, one of several local agencies designated to assist those applying for amnesty, criticized the program, saying many people who could qualify have not come forward.
Lopez said the law wasn't publicized well until recently. "People who were illegal didn't know what the actual law was."
Many people couldn't come up with the application fee, said Lopez. "They can't work because they don't have work permits, and they don't have any money." Some employers, who didn't understand the law either, discharged workers out of fear.
Finally, said Lopez, distrust of the INS lingers, despite assurances that information is confidential and won't be used for enforcement. "People are afraid to come forward because they are afraid of Immigration."