The ceremony was held in the outdoor seating area of the San Bruno facility on a beautiful day. Several people spoke, including Tom Mills, Chief Operating Officer of NARA; Dominick Gentile, chief of the Records Division of USCIS; U.S. Representative Jackie Speier; representatives of Save Our National Archives, the National Japanese American Historical Society, and the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society; and Representative Lantos' grandson Keaton Swett. All speakers touched on the themes of family history and the great treasures and information to be found in the A-Files.
A-Files were created by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) for immigrants to the United States who arrived in 1944 and later, or who arrived earlier but who had immigration paperwork processed after 1943. The files were not originally scheduled to be kept permanently. A grass-roots San Francisco Bay area group, Save Our National Archives (SONA), lobbied to have the files saved permanently and made available to researchers. Representative Lantos agreed and helped press the issue. After his death in 2008, Representative Speier continued support for the project. In 2009 NARA and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS; the government agency which took the place of the INS) signed an agreement to keep the files as permanent records.
A-Files from offices in San Francisco, Honolulu, Reno, and Guam will be maintained at the NARA branch in San Bruno. (A-Files from other locations are available through the NARA branch in Kansas City, Missouri.) Currently more than 40,000 files for individuals born in 1911 and earlier are available in San Bruno. In 2015 files for people born in 1912-1914 will be transferred from USCIS to NARA. Every five years after that another five years of records will be transferred. In addition, USCIS created a name index for the records, which is available to the archivists in San Bruno.
I hope many people take advantage of the opportunity now available to them and make use of these records. Detailed information about the records available in San Bruno is on the NARA Web site. You can search the online index to the collection to see if the person you are seeking has a file (this index searches the records held at Kansas City only). You can also search the general ARC index using the terms "alien case file" and the name of the person you are looking for. If you find a file exists, you can then schedule a visit and hold the original documents in your hands.
Additional comments on today's ceremony, including images of sample documents from A-Files, can be read at the blog of the California State Genealogical Alliance.