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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Green Card Deadline Sparks Worried Lines

LOS ANGELES -- For decades, Larry Healy never gave much thought to his green card. After finding out he faced a deadline to get a new one, it was the only thing on his mind.


"They never asked me for it in 40 years," said Healy, 67, a retired railroad worker from Ireland. "I'm probably the oldest cardholder in the world."


For Healy and thousands of others across the United States, Wednesday was the deadline to apply for new permanent resident alien permits to replace ones issued before 1979. Some responded to rumors of mass deportations, though immigration officials said there was no threat of penalties against those with expired cards.


The Immigration and Naturalization Service began the card-replacement effort in November 1993 in an attempt to deter counterfeiting of the card, which is the agency's most forged document.


At the INS building in Los Angeles, people began lining up before dawn. But some, like Healy, said they only found out about the deadline in the morning, stopped what they were doing and hurried to get in line.


Lack of a new green card doesn't change a person's status as a legal resident. But failure to have one could pose problems for legal immigrants if they leave the United States and want to return, as well as for those who want to apply for public benefits with the expired card.


The new cards are computer coded and have the holder's thumb print and signature. INS officials are confident they are much more difficult to counterfeit than the old ones.


Of the 1.5 million people estimated in 1993 to be holders of the older cards, probably 200,000 to 300,000 have yet to replace their documents, INS Deputy Commissioner Chris Sale said.


?The U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday to allow states to deny public education to illegal immigrant children, the Los Angeles Times reported.


House Speaker Newt Gingrich gave the provision a boost when he took the floor to say that only by eliminating benefits such as public schooling will the lure of America diminish in illegal immigrants' eyes. "There is no question that offering free taxpayer goods to illegals attracts more illegals," Gingrich said. "It is wrong for us to be the welfare capital of the world."