Cameron Co. Officials See Increase in Passport Applications
BROWNSVILLE - The Cameron County District Clerk’s Office said there’s an uptick in applications for U.S. passports.
Cameron County District Clerk Eric Garza said they used to see around 10 families applying every day for their passport. Since the beginning of 2017, he said the number rose close to 30 families a day.
“People come in doing the first-time passport, but we’re seeing the renewals come in slowly,” he said.
Garza said a variety of factors caused the recent surge in passport applicants.
“The WHTI (Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative), which is the law that said that everybody had to have passports started in 2007. It’s been 10 years, so passports last 10 years,” he said. “So, the U.S. Department is saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to have a surge of people coming in because they want to renew.’”
Jalisco native Salvador Morfin Mendoza was one of many renewing their passport. He renews it every 10 years, but he said this time his visit was different.
“Yes, other times they’ve helped me quickly. The service has always been fast, but there are more people now, they’re busy,” he said.
The other group creating the spike is first-time passport applicants like Ruben Antonio Mendez Rodriguez. He said he became a U.S. citizen last month. It was a decision he made due to the current political climate.
“I think about two weeks ago, they had about 475 individuals become U.S. citizens. That was the biggest group of individuals that they’ve ever had at any particular ceremony,” said the Cameron County District Clerk.
Garza said his office knew a record number of people were to become naturalized citizens. He said they expected the busy workflow.
“They’re concerned about what the political climate is. So, they don’t want to be caught off guard and I think that’s probably the main reason they’re coming in and getting their passport,” he said. “They want to have something that says, ‘Yes, look here. I’m a U.S. citizen. This is my passport. You gave it to me. You can’t tell me that I’m not because you gave it to me.’”
However, Garza said the increase in people has also caused delays at the office. His office told applicants passports actually take about six to eight weeks to be processed, as opposed to the usual four to six-week timeframe.
People have other alternatives. Garza said first-time passport applicants can do so at any U.S. post office. He said if they’re renewing it, they can do it on their own.
The Cameron County District Clerk’s Office will also hold events to accommodate the growing interest in U.S. passports.
The first event will be held Saturday, March 18th from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Bob Clark Social Services Center. The second event will be held on April 8th from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Proyecto Juan Diego.
For additional information contact the office of the district clerk at 956-544-0838.
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