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  • Citizenship Delayed for 1,500; Security Check Backlog Cited

    By MARC SANTORA


    itizenship ceremonies for more than 1,500 immigrants in New York City were canceled yesterday, and federal officials said they could not keep up with the national demand for background checks on applicants.

    "I can confirm that there have been six ceremonies that have been postponed in the New York District involving 1,560 candidates for citizenship," said Mark Thorn, a spokesman for the Immigration and Naturalization Service in New York. Mr. Thorn said he could not be specific about why the ceremonies were canceled.

    Robert C. Heinemann, the clerk of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, said the court had been given less than one day's notice that it would have to postpone yesterday's naturalization of about 250 people.

    He said federal immigration officials in New York notified him on Wednesday, saying they were still waiting for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to notify them about checks on the applicants' names. "I asked when they would be able to reschedule, and they said they just didn't know," Mr. Heinemann said.

    In the Brooklyn court alone, roughly 1,000 people are sworn in every week. As of Wednesday, 46,963 people had been naturalized there this year, a number officials said was comparable to last year's.

    Officials at both the immigration service and the Justice Department said the problem was not limited to New York. "Problems like this are happening sporadically across the nation," one said.

    While there is disagreement about exactly what the problem is, several government officials said it concerned the F.B.I.'s inability to check all the names they are given.

    A law enforcement official who insisted on anonymity said recent communication problems between the F.B.I. and the naturalization service had allowed some people with questionable backgrounds to become citizens. The most notable case involved a man in New York who was naturalized despite suspected ties to the Islamist group, Hezbollah. When the mistake was discovered in late October, the naturalization service began an internal investigation, and five employees were placed on administrative leave.

    On Nov. 13 the agency directed all its field offices that they "should not proceed in the process of granting any person citizenship until they heard back from the F.B.I.," according to a law enforcement official who read the memo.

    Since then, a government official said, citizenship ceremonies in Chicago and Texas have been postponed, although the number of people involved was not disclosed.

    Yesterday, dozens of immigrants showed up at the courthouse in Brooklyn expecting to say the Pledge of Allegiance and become citizens. "They went through the whole process, the fingerprints, the interviews, the waiting," Mr. Heinemann said. "Then they were simply told the swearing-in was canceled with no date for rescheduling."

    The process for naturalization includes fingerprint checks by the F.B.I. Applicants must also demonstrate that they have never been arrested. They are interviewed by a naturalization service examiner, who gives them a history test and makes sure they understand English. Applicants must also take an oath to support the Constitution.

    Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the agency has been criticized for several blunders, including the mailing of visas to two of the hijackers six months after the attacks.

    A law enforcement official said the main reason for having to postpone the naturalization ceremonies yesterday was that the workload for the F.B.I. was simply tremendous.

    "We only have so many people to do background checks, and this is the reality," the official said, noting that the bureau now has to check the background of every civilian and commercial pilot in the country.

    The official acknowledged that there may be delays, but said, "We want to be sure that the people we naturalize have nothing in their background terror-related."

  • #2
    By MARC SANTORA


    itizenship ceremonies for more than 1,500 immigrants in New York City were canceled yesterday, and federal officials said they could not keep up with the national demand for background checks on applicants.

    "I can confirm that there have been six ceremonies that have been postponed in the New York District involving 1,560 candidates for citizenship," said Mark Thorn, a spokesman for the Immigration and Naturalization Service in New York. Mr. Thorn said he could not be specific about why the ceremonies were canceled.

    Robert C. Heinemann, the clerk of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, said the court had been given less than one day's notice that it would have to postpone yesterday's naturalization of about 250 people.

    He said federal immigration officials in New York notified him on Wednesday, saying they were still waiting for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to notify them about checks on the applicants' names. "I asked when they would be able to reschedule, and they said they just didn't know," Mr. Heinemann said.

    In the Brooklyn court alone, roughly 1,000 people are sworn in every week. As of Wednesday, 46,963 people had been naturalized there this year, a number officials said was comparable to last year's.

    Officials at both the immigration service and the Justice Department said the problem was not limited to New York. "Problems like this are happening sporadically across the nation," one said.

    While there is disagreement about exactly what the problem is, several government officials said it concerned the F.B.I.'s inability to check all the names they are given.

    A law enforcement official who insisted on anonymity said recent communication problems between the F.B.I. and the naturalization service had allowed some people with questionable backgrounds to become citizens. The most notable case involved a man in New York who was naturalized despite suspected ties to the Islamist group, Hezbollah. When the mistake was discovered in late October, the naturalization service began an internal investigation, and five employees were placed on administrative leave.

    On Nov. 13 the agency directed all its field offices that they "should not proceed in the process of granting any person citizenship until they heard back from the F.B.I.," according to a law enforcement official who read the memo.

    Since then, a government official said, citizenship ceremonies in Chicago and Texas have been postponed, although the number of people involved was not disclosed.

    Yesterday, dozens of immigrants showed up at the courthouse in Brooklyn expecting to say the Pledge of Allegiance and become citizens. "They went through the whole process, the fingerprints, the interviews, the waiting," Mr. Heinemann said. "Then they were simply told the swearing-in was canceled with no date for rescheduling."

    The process for naturalization includes fingerprint checks by the F.B.I. Applicants must also demonstrate that they have never been arrested. They are interviewed by a naturalization service examiner, who gives them a history test and makes sure they understand English. Applicants must also take an oath to support the Constitution.

    Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the agency has been criticized for several blunders, including the mailing of visas to two of the hijackers six months after the attacks.

    A law enforcement official said the main reason for having to postpone the naturalization ceremonies yesterday was that the workload for the F.B.I. was simply tremendous.

    "We only have so many people to do background checks, and this is the reality," the official said, noting that the bureau now has to check the background of every civilian and commercial pilot in the country.

    The official acknowledged that there may be delays, but said, "We want to be sure that the people we naturalize have nothing in their background terror-related."

    Comment


    • #3
      http://discuss.ilw.com/eve/forums?q=...281#2096070281

      Comment


      • #4
        Is it that to be able to read a NYT article one has to register beforehand?

        Comment


        • #5
          You have heard of a temporary slowdown in adjudications of AOS (adjustment of status) and N (naturalization) cases. This has been referred to as a temporary "freeze." INS has stated that there is no "freeze" and that cases are continuing to be processed for adjudication. However, the INS has changed the manner and timeframe for issuance of approvals.

          The reason for this is that the INS now is neither allowed to grant adjustment of status to permanent residence nor naturalization towards U.S. citizenship until it first receives a favorable FBI response to the background check for each applicant concerned regarding these immigration benefits. In the past, the INS operated on a "no news is good news" presumption that a result was favorable unless the FBI provided information to the contrary within a certain timeframe. The FBI did not actually respond to each background check request, but only to those with negative findings.

          A change in the computerized background check system at INS was required in order allow for an FBI response in each case. Approvals for those cases that were subject to the new requirement could not be issued during the computer upgrade. The INS has advised that the modifications to the computer system are nearly finished, enabling the needed background checks to be made at this time. However, the temporary delay has caused a backlog of cases needing FBI clearance. These cases are still experiencing delays, awaiting FBI processing, and for their results to be relayed to the appropriate INS offices.

          Comment


          • #6
            Significant increase in number of visa denials by U.S.

            TIMES NEWS NETWORK[ THURSDAY, APRIL 03, 2003

            AHMEDABAD: The US immigration authorities have been rejecting greater number of visa applications. The number of refusals has dramatically increased in 2002-03, and an increasing number of Indians are losing out. Piyush Shelat, a medical professional staying in the US for the last 10 years, had made a visa application in 1996 for status adjustment in the US after his wife Sangita Shelat received US citizenship. "My application for adjusting the visa status was rejected within minutes," says Shelat. He, now faces deportation, had overstayed on his visitor visa in 1994. Many like Shelat have been turned down by the US authorities this year. With stricter checks, many, who may have otherwise been eligible for becoming US permanent residents, are presently facing deportation from the US, inform immigration lawyers in the US. Gregory Siskind, immigration attorney from Siskind, Susser, Haas & Devine in the US says that for security reasons, the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has adopted a zero-tolerance policy on all cases.

            "INS may reject the application for minor reasons, including status violations or incorrect answers on forms. Minute mistakes may also lead to application rejections," says Siskind. In the past, the agency was flexible and would judge the overall circumstances when making decisions. From March 1, the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) has taken over charge from the INS. And backlogs are again up at the INS since the switch. "It also has an impact on my clients," says Siskind. "Obviously denials and backlogs are not good. With this, a person's immigration hopes could be dashed." With increasing number of denials, the board of the immigration appeals system, a watchdog set by the US Justice Department in 1940 over immigration courts, is also swamped with cases. The changes pushed by attorney general Ashcroft directed the Board of Immigration Appeals to clear 56,000 backlog cases by March 25, notes Los Angeles Times.

            A review conducted by The Times found that to meet this deadline the Board of Immigration Appeals rejected 86% of its appeals in October, compared to 59% the previous October. With proliferation of summary decisions without explanations by the board, "Immigrants are appealing to the federal court system in unprecedented numbers, creating another backlog," notes the L.A. Times. Immigrants and their lawyers in the US are anxious over the recent increase in denials and the subsequent backlog of cases. Robert Gottfried, an immigration lawyer in the US says, "At the New York District Office and the Vermont Service Center, there are 1000s of cases that remain unadjudicated. The Vermont Service Center is currently adjudicating employment cases received in the fall of 2001. The New York District Office are scheduling interviews for family-based cases filed in May 2001 for July 2003. They are supposed to shut down for interviews in the month of April, in order work on all their old cases that were interviewed but not fully adjudicated." The checks also take more time because all applications now have to pass an IBIS security check make sure that the individual has no criminal or immigration violations, informs Gottfried. And increase in application backlog has also occurred because the US Immigration and Naturalization Service at one point stopped adjudicating adjustment applications before implementing new rules of fingerprints and thorough background checks, informs Hamel Vyas, an immigration lawyer in the US.



            http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/c...?msid=42301511

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