Article by: MARK BRUNSWICK , Star Tribune Updated: March 18, 2014 - 6:12 PM
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar continues to pursue a fix to what even the federal government admits is a $14 million mistake.
Last week she pressed the nominee to head the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to address a planned move of its Minnesota office from near the Mall of America to an out-of-the-way location on the Bloomington-Eden Prairie border, 3 miles from the closest public transportation.
The exchange occurred with Leon Rodriguez during a Senate confirmation hearing. Rodriguez has been nominated to be director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
With little local public input and because of a mistake that even it acknowledges, the federal government will move its USCIS offices 11 miles away later this year.
In violation of its own policies that require easy access to public transportation, the new building will be 3 miles from the closest bus stop. The federal General Services Administration has admitted it misread a bus schedule in reviewing applications.
The Minnesota office serves all of the state as well as the Dakotas and a large swath of western Wisconsin. Last year it saw about 28,000 people who scheduled interviews, used its information center or came to pick up citizenship certificates. It processed more than 13,000 applications for naturalization in 2013.
“Obviously a lot of people who use this service do not use cars and are not able to afford cabs,” Klobuchar told Rodriguez. “The worst part about it, I like that they told the truth, but the GSA admitted they made a mistake. It is a glaring error. It is a huge problem.”
Rodriguez, the director of the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, said he was aware of the problem and was committed to finding a resolution.
“In my current job, the work we do is all about accessibility to government services, so this is really core to my professional identity to tackle these sorts of issues,” Rodriguez testified.
Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434