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PROBE: April 23, 2002

April 23, 2002

QUESTION: Before my green card expired I applied for a new one. The application fee was $90. The Immigration and Naturalization Service gave me a one-year extension while I waited for my new card.

Almost a year later my card still had not arrived and I contacted the INS, which said I would have to file another application. This time the fee was $110.

It's another year later and I still don't have my replacement green card. I have called every INS office from Calexico to Laguna Niguel and I can't get my card, only now the application fee is $130. At one office, the INS said the fee is $180.

Since I have paid the fee twice, I think the INS should send me a card. Can you help? — Uncarded, El Centro

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We're working on it. After waiting 25 minutes on hold after dialing the 800 number for Laguna Niguel, we finally got Tim on the line.

Tim insisted the problem could only be solved in Laguna Niguel. We insisted we had called Laguna Niguel. Tim said, "I am nowhere near Laguna Niguel."

"Where are you?" we asked.

"I can't tell you," he said, "for security reasons."

Tim said he couldn't help us anyway. For one thing, we didn't know if you filed a I-90 or I-751 form. He gave us no points for having your A-number.

He couldn't help us, he said, because he could only discuss your case with you. We knew that but we had hoped that he, armed with your A-number, could find the snafu in your case and unsnarl it.

Tim gave us a fax number you can use to reach somebody in Laguna Niguel. If you filed an I-90 application, fax your letter to (949) 389-3484. If you filed your application on an I-751 form, fax your inquiry to (949) 389-3482.

Naturally, you are going to include your A-number and also the number from the receipt for your original application (and just to be sure, include the receipt number from your second application. Also mention your change of address when you moved.)

Tim assured us when INS receives your fax, it will send you a letter. We got one more thing for you: the INS e-mail or Web page address: ins.us.doj.gov. We don't know what you can do with that but it wouldn't hurt to take a look.

QUESTION: Look at my bank statement. The family support office wiped out my whole balance: $2,359. Isn't it against the law to attach a Supplemental Security Income check? — Creamed, El Centro

It is against the law to attach SSI because SSI is public assistance. It's not against the law to attach Social Security, which is deferred earned income. Your bank balance was the proceeds of a Social Security lump sum payment when you got your benefits started.

If you owe child support, the only safe place to keep your money is under your mattress or buried in your back yard. With today's computer technology, child support enforcers can and do wander through bank accounts.

A PUMPKIN PATCH — If you take Highway 78 to Borrego Springs you can find tons of concretions, those desert curiosities molded from sand and minerals. If you go down Pole Line Road and then up a wash, you'll find round objects that look like pumpkins. Some are 4 feet across. Don't go without at least two four-wheel drive vehicles. — Desert Explorer, Westmorland

If you can't arrange two four-wheel drive vehicles, there is a collection of photographs of the stone pumpkins on display at the Old Post Office Pavilion in El Centro. The photos were taken by Stacy Vellas of Brawley.

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