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INS director: Fee exemptions likely

June 13, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE

Staff Writer

CALEXICO — The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service could allow clients of Calexico's Valley Orthopaedic Clinic to cross the border for surgeries without paying a $6 processing fee, according to Michael Freeman, director of the Andrade and Calexico ports of entry.

Freeman said high-ranking INS officials would make a final decision in a few weeks.

"I talked to my people today and they stressed, once again, individual entities can request an exemption. Those will be entertained by me on a case-by-case basis. If I determine that their justification is reasonable I will grant a waiver as I've done in the past," he said.

The Valley Orthopaedic Clinic transports needy children to Los Angeles for life-changing operations or provides care to the children at its Heber Avenue and First Street location.

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On the day Freeman made his comments, this newspaper published an article detailing the concerns of clinic administrator Wayne Van De Graaff, who is worried costs to the clinic could reach $1,000 a month if the INS doesn't give clinic clients a waiver.

Van De Graaff, a former county supervisor and one of the clinic founders, said all services offered by the clinic are free.

To help spread the message of the clinic's charitable work and express his concern regarding the processing fees, Van De Graaff has written letters to Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, and California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.

The clinic has operated since 1962. It was founded by Dr. Robert B. Nichols and Van De Graaff, an INS inspector at the time. Celebrated physicians such as Dr. Charles Leroy Lehman have donated time to help clinic patients.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or aclaverie@aol.com

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