The topic of immigration is often highly contentious and polarizing, as demonstrated by the recent Republican primary debates and the partisan responses to President Barack Obama’s statements about immigration in the State of the Union address. In the midst of this heated national conversation, the Peoria Journal Star recently ran a story reminding readers that on a local level, immigration officials are often devoted public servants, and the offices where immigration forms and passport applications are processed can be places of great excitement and happiness.
In September, Robert Spears took over the position of county clerk in Peoria, Illinois, and he’s been hard at work ever since, the Journal Star reported. The office has processed 239 U.S. passport applications since September and 87 since the beginning of 2012. The youngest person to be granted a passport was a six-day-old baby boy whose parents were visiting the United States from England.
Spears told the newspaper that due to complications, the boy’s mother was not able to return to the United Kingdom to give birth, making U.S. citizenship her son’s first-ever birthday present. And like other U.S. citizens, the newborn needed a passport to fly across the pond.
The baby did not open his eyes for his passport photo, as is required, but Spears assured the Journal Star that the infant was given his passport regardless.
Going beyond the call of duty, Spears is opening his office on Saturday, February 4, to make it easier for college students to apply for passports prior to spring break, the source reported.
“We’re trying to make it more convenient for people to get their passports, particularly students and young people, who can’t get here by 4 p.m. (on weekdays),” Spears said. He added that his team will take advantage of unused office space on the weekend to process multiple passports simultaneously.
About 12.6 million passports were issued in 2011, with more than 481,000 issued in Illinois, according to the U.S. Department of State.