ADC Welcomes Policy Shift on Immigration Delays from DHS and USCIS
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) welcomes the decision by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and Director of the United States Citizens and Immigration Services (USCIS) Emilio T. Gonzalez, to address the processing delays of citizenship and legal permanent residency applications.
The change in policy affects approximately 47,000 green-card, or permanent residency, applicants whose cases are otherwise complete but have been waiting six months or more for a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) background check.
Though DHS will now grant residency to thousands of immigrants whose pending legal permanent residency applications have been delayed, applicants must be approved through DHS and FBI fingerprint databases along with other consolidated law enforcement databases.
The FBI will continue the process of background name checks after residency has been granted by DHS and USCIS and retains the right revoke legal status if a valid reason is found. It should be noted that Congress has already approved more money to speed the process of FBI background checks.
According to USCIS, much of the $20 million in new funding will be spent finding ways to help expedite naturalization cases, including the hiring of 221 new FBI contractors.
Since April 2006, ADC has filed approximately 100 naturalization delay administrative complaints with the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (DHS CRCL).
This number is significantly lower than the total number of calls and complaints received by ADC during this period. For every individual who follows through with filing a complaint through ADC, three to four individuals contact the organization about naturalization delays but do not wish to file complaints for fear of retribution; ADC estimates that as a result the number of individuals approaching ADC with this problem is in the hundreds, with some individuals waiting more than five years.
During that same period, and under ADC’s coordination, attorneys from across the country filed Writs of Mandamus to compel processing of delayed applications. For more on ADC’s work concerning the Writs of Mandamus, please see: http://adc.org/index.php?id=2792
In June 2006, ADC received a letter from DHS CRCL acknowledging the complaints and indicating that the complaints were received and were being addressed on the policy level. Additionally, groups met with DHS Secretary Chertoff in November 2007, on this topic, and followed up with USCIS Director Emilio Gonzalez in December 2007.
At the time, Director Gonzalez acknowledged that USCIS and FBI were working to address this issue. He also indicated, as did Secretary Chertoff, that clear substantive improvements would be seen in the following six months and they estimated that about 50% of the backlog would be gone.
ADC National Executive Director Kareem Shora stated “ADC applauds the efforts of Secretary Chertoff and Director Gonzalez in constructively addressing the background check delays for green card applications. These steps highlight the importance of balancing our nation’s security while addressing the impact on families affected by these delays.
These were a major component of the background check backlog and we look forward to continue to work with DHS leadership in addressing the further issue of naturalization delay backlog.”