Local immigrants may soon be gaining easier access to enhanced public services in the Azores, but exactly to what extent still remains a subject of contention.President Carlos César of the Regional Government of Azores announced that a bureau of the Rede Integrada de Apoio ao Cidadão (RIAC) or Integrated Network for Citizen Support will open soon at the Casa dos Açores da Nova Inglaterra in Fall River.RIAC was introduced several years ago in the Azores to facilitate citizens' access to public administration services, while maximizing quality, promptness and convenience. Currently there are about 40 RIAC bureaus in the Azores, which are used to pay utility bills, take care of real estate matters, request financial incentives or apply for a slew of official documents, including passport, criminal record, national ID, national health medical card, Social Security card and birth, marriage and death certificates, among others.César said the intention is to provide immigrants who reside in this area with a vast package of services similar to what already takes place in the Azorean islands.
"It will certainly be a great benefit in terms of accessibility for our fellow-citizens who reside there [Fall River] and it will be accomplished with the support of Casa dos Açores da Nova Inglaterra, an institution that has great credibility and has distinguished itself in a very positive matter from other institutions," said César in Ponta Delgada, after meeting with João Pacheco, president of the Casa dos Açores of Nova Inglaterra (CANI).Pacheco, who returned to the United States on Tuesday, told O Jornal that CANI, which is currently headquartered in East Providence, will be opening a delegation office at 308 South Main St., Fall River. He praised the decision of the Regional Government of the Azores to open a RIAC in Fall River, but admits he has some reservations about its full implementation."RIAC has played an extremely important role in Portugal, but I don't know if it will be viable in the United States," he said. "If RIAC opens in Fall River, I think it will be with limited services."He says he foresees the new office as a venue to provide more information than actual services."I don't want to deceive the community with false hopes, saying that we are going to open the RIAC office a month from now and we don't have anything to offer," he said.Pacheco said a similar project has been stalled in Ontario, Canada.
"In Ontario, they [Casa dos Açores] already have the furniture since February, but they still have no guidelines," he said. "There is no lack of promises." O Jornal contacted the press office of the Azorean Presidency to find out more details about the new office, but did not receive a return call by press time.Pacheco said César told him he expects to send a representative from his administration to this area to help plan and implement the new bureau.