The INS director told Aunty Ruby Chow he wanted to improve services for new immigrants. He had already authorized coffee and muffin carts to make the wait times more pleasant but still wanted on-site fingerprinting and photos done for IDs, passports and other INS related needs. He offered this work to Chong Wa, stipulating that part of the proceeds be used to benefit the community. The Chong Wa board voted to accept the offer and use the proceeds to fund educational activities. Board members Dick and Helen Kay offered to take care of the new Chong Wa Immigration Service business.
They bought equipment and hired two employees. It went well, providing immediate “one stop” services to immigrants and refugees while providing income to Chong Wa’s educational activities. I think it started in 1996.
What changed was 9/11. Federal laws regarding IDs became much stricter, and the director of the INS informed us that operations would cease for security reasons. It took a couple years to put in place the new regulations; that’s why the last day was on October 17, 2003.
Thanks to the compassion of the then INS director, we were able to help many more of the over-age immigrant and refugee youth, ages 18-20, graduate from high school due to Chong Wa’s continuation of bilingual summer school and needed credit bearing classes. I had a free hand to organize the summer school and hire staff. Sometimes I wonder where those students are today, and how their lives turned out because of those crucial few years of summer math, reading and writing classes they received.
– Betty Lau