INS to speed up US Citizenship process  

INDOlink Calif. Bureau; Sept. 18, 1999

The Immigration and Naturalization Service has begun paring down the huge backlog of citizenship applications that has kept immigrants waiting for as long as three years before they could become naturalized.

In an announcement in Los Angeles last week, INS Commissioner Doris Meissner said she hoped to reduce the current time to process a citizenship application from about 13 months to six months. Up until last fall, the waiting period was around 41 months.

The enormous backlog followed a significant surge in citizenship applications during the mid-1990s, which was triggered by anti-immigrant sentiment. Immigrants began to feel that they would be better off becoming citizens than remaining legal resident aliens.

But bureaucratic red tape and apathetic INS case workers built up the backlog.

According to a Los Angeles Times story, applicant Manmohan Singh Sukhwal almost gave up his five-year struggle to gain citizenship. He was required to provide a set of fingerprints six separate times before his application could be advanced.

Immigrant groups advocates say there has been a sixfold increase in citizenship denials over the last year in Los Angeles alone.

"These people were just basically steamrolled," Greg Simons, a coordinator for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, is quoted in the Times story as saying. He said the INS lets thousands of cases fall through the cracks because of computer errors or staff mistakes.

The INS denies any unjust treatment of applications. The higher rate of rejections, it said, was caused by a newly-created INS branch responsible for complex applications that were routinely set aside by workers in previous years.

Meissner asserted that most of the denials were caused by applicants moving to new addresses, or abandoning their efforts to become citizens.

The INS will rectify that by establishing a toll-free number for applicants to call when they change addresses or update their applications, she said.