Sunday, February 24, 2008

More Broken Promises

I don't know why people still expect the current administration to keep any of the promises it has made. I mean, really: haven't the last seven years taught us anything? Still, I must admit that even I found this NY Times article a bit much.

Despite a 2002 promise from President Bush to put citizenship applications for immigrant members of the military on a fast track, some are finding themselves waiting months, or even years, because of bureaucratic backlogs. ...

The current excuse is that many more people filed for citizenship once the increase in filing fees was announced, and the feds weren't prepared for the rush. After all, who could have imagined? That excuse isn't working very well because of President Bush's 2002 executive order.

But service members and veterans are supposed to go to the head of the line. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President Bush signed an executive order allowing noncitizens on active duty to file for citizenship right away, instead of having to first complete three years in the military. The federal government has since taken several steps to speed up the process, including training military officers to help service members fill out forms, assigning special teams to handle the paperwork, and allowing citizenship tests, interviews and ceremonies to take place overseas.

OK, then, what's the problem?

At the same time, post-9/11 security measures, including tougher guidelines for background checks that are part of the naturalization process, have slowed things down.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which checks the names of citizenship applicants against those in its more than 86 million investigative files, has been overwhelmed, handling an average of 90,000 name-check requests a week. In the fiscal year that ended in September, the F.B.I. was asked to check 4.1 million names, at least half of them for citizenship and green card applicants, a spokesman said.

“Most soldiers clear the checks within 30 to 60 days, or 60 to 90 days,” said Leslie B. Lord, the Army’s liaison to Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency that processes citizenship applications. “But even the soldier with the cleanest of records, if he has a name that’s very similar to one that’s in the F.B.I. bad-boy and bad-girl list, things get delayed.”
[Emphasis added]

And how similar does the name have to be? Well, one young man, who received an honorable discharge from the Marines after a tour of duty in Iraq and who is still waiting for his promised citizenship, has pretty much figured out the problem.

Such explanations are why Mr. [Abdool] Habibullah has decided that once he does become a citizen — if he ever becomes a citizen — he will change his name.

“I figured that’s part of the reason things got delayed,” he said. “You know, that I have a Muslim name.”


330 days

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