Press Releases

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) today sent several letters to top federal officials, asking them to streamline the process for replacing important documents, such as passports, lost in the recent California wildfires.

“The victims of the recent Southern California wildfires should not have to suffer twice – first at the hands of the fires, and then at the hands of the federal bureaucracy. Many of these people lost all they have in the fires, and I believe it is important for the federal government to cut red tape wherever it can to help get them back on their feet as quickly as possible,” Senator Feinstein said.

“The victims of the Southern California fires are beginning the process of rebuilding their lives, and the Federal government should do everything it can to make this process as easy as possible,” Senator Boxer said.  “I am glad to join with Senator Feinstein in this effort, and I will continue to work with agencies to ensure that Southern Californians get the help they need.”

 Senators Feinstein and Boxer, joined by several California members of the House of Representatives, sent letters to:

  • Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, urging the State Department to waive passport replacement fees for Californians whose passports were lost, damaged or destroyed in the recent wildfires;
  • Postmaster General John E. Potter, asking that the U.S. Postal Service waive all relevant passport fees for Californians whose passports were lost, damaged, or destroyed in the fires; and
  • Emilio T. Gonzalez, Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, asking for fee waivers and expedited processing for people who lost personal immigration documents in the fires.

Following are the texts of the letters sent by Senators Feinstein and Boxer:

November 7, 2007

The Honorable Condoleezza Rice
Secretary of State
2150 C Street, NW
Washington DC, 20159

Dear Secretary Rice:

We write today to urge you to waive passport replacement fees for those Californians whose passports were lost, damaged, or destroyed in the wave of fires that recently devastated parts of our state in late October.  

As you know, thousands of Californians have literally lost everything in recent weeks.  These individuals and their families must now begin the process of rebuilding their entire lives—from replacing homes and vehicles, to clothing and countless other basic necessities. We have heard from members of our staff at Local Assistance Centers that many Californians are concerned by the additional cost of replacing their passports.

We respectfully ask that you take steps to promptly waive all necessary passport fees for those who are able to demonstrate that they suffered loss or damage to their property, including passports, in the fires. We appreciate the number of agencies and organizations that have stepped up to make the lives of impacted Californians easier at this difficult time, and hope that the Department of State can play a similar role in this important process. We also ask that you do everything possible to expedite passport replacement for impacted Californians who may be planning to travel abroad in the coming weeks.  

           Thank you for your consideration of this important request.

                                                               Sincerely,

Barbara Boxer                  Dianne Feinstein 
United States Senator     United States Senator

Bob Filner                         Jerry Lewis
Member of Congress        Member of Congress


Gary Miller                         Duncan Hunter
Member of Congress         Member of Congress


Brad Sherman                  Mary Bono
Member of Congress        Member of Congress
 
   
Joe Baca                           Darrell Issa
Member of Congress        Member of Congress
 
  
Elton Gallegly      
Member of Congress 

 

November 7, 2007

The Honorable John E. Potter
Postmaster General
U.S. Postal Service
475 L’Enfant Plaza, SW
Washington, D.C. 20260-1000

Dear Postmaster Potter,
 
We write today to urge the United States Postal Service to waive all relevant passport fees for those Californians whose passports were lost, damaged, or destroyed in the wave of fires that recently devastated parts of our state.  
 
As you know, thousands of Californians lost everything in recent weeks.  The most recent estimates indicate that 3,204 structures have been damaged or destroyed to date. These individuals and families, many who had little or no time to pack after evacuation orders were issued, must now begin the process of rebuilding their entire lives—from replacing homes and vehicles, to clothing and countless other basic necessities. We have heard from members of our staff at Local Assistance Centers that many Californians are concerned by the additional cost of replacing their passports.
 
We respectfully ask that you take steps to promptly waive all necessary passport fees for those who are able to demonstrate that they suffered loss or damage to their property, including passports, in the fires. With the implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, and the new requirement for passports at land ports of entry, it is especially important that these documents are replaced expeditiously.  We also ask that you do everything possible to expedite passport replacement for impacted Californians who may be planning to travel abroad in the coming weeks. 
 
 Again, we thank you for your time and consideration of this matter.  We look forward to working with you to help these families put their lives together as quickly as possible.


Sincerely,
    
Dianne Feinstein             Barbara Boxer
United States Senator    United States Senator

   
Bob Filner                          Jerry Lewis
Member of Congress         Member of Congress

    
Gary Miller                          Duncan Hunter
Member of Congress          Member of Congress

  
Brad Sherman                  Mary Bono
Member of Congress        Member of Congress

   
Joe Baca                           Darrell Issa
Member of Congress         Member of Congress

    
Elton Gallegly      
Member of Congress 


November 7, 2007

The Honorable Emilio T. González
Director
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
20 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20529

Dear Director Gonzalez,
 
As you know, Southern California recently experienced a wave of devastating wildfires.  As families begin the difficult process of rebuilding their lives, we hope that all levels of government will help these families in their recovery efforts.  The most recent estimates indicate that 3,204 structures were damaged or destroyed.  We expect that some of the people affected by this damage will need assistance from Citizenship and Immigration Services.
 
We understand many personal credentials were lost, including Immigration documents such as Naturalization Certificates and Permanent Residency cards.  As you know, the replacement of Immigration documents can be an expensive and lengthy process, and in the case of the fire victims, it may impede recovery.  We are aware that USCIS already has programs for expeditious processing and fee waivers.  It is our hope that the applications for replacement documents brought to you by the victims of the Southern California fires will qualify for these programs.  The California Office of Emergency Services is compiling a reliable list of impacted homes. We believe that crosschecking these lists with Citizenship and Immigration Services’ database could serve as a simple way to provide this assistance. 
 
Again, we thank you for your time and consideration of this matter.  We look forward to working with you to help these families put their lives back together as quickly as possible.
 
Sincerely,   

 
Dianne Feinstein             Barbara Boxer
United States Senator    United States Senator

Bob Filner                          Gary Miller
Member of Congress         Member of Congress

Joe Baca                            Mary Bono
Member of Congress         Member of Congress

Brad Sherman                   Darrell Issa
Member of Congress         Member of Congress

Elton Gallegly      
Member of Congress

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