Friday, January 25, 2008

Oh, Please

Some excuses just get overworked to the point that all they can evoke is derisive laughter. Perhaps the most current example of that was an excuse offered by a spokesman for the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. What provoked yet another round of "Who could have imagined/anticipated..."? Today's Boston Globe has an update on a story that has been reported for months concerning the backlog of applications for citizenship.

Immigrants in Massachusetts and nationwide could wait 16 to 18 months - more than double the usual period - to become US citizens because of a massive backlog, leaving thousands possibly unable to vote in November.

The backlog is the result of millions of applications for citizenship, green cards, and work permits that swamped immigration offices last summer before hefty fee increases went into effect July 30. ...

Federal immigration officials across the nation are hiring hundreds of staff members, paying overtime, and streamlining bureaucracy to process the applications more quickly. In Boston, officials will add more officers and in March will add an extra day, Saturday, to help break up the backlog in citizenship interviews.

Officials in Massachusetts had hoped the delays would be shorter. But after opening hundreds of applications that came in before the fee increases, a process they finished just recently, they realized the wait could be as long as 18 months, which is also the national average. Before the fee change, the wait here was four to five months, and about six months nationally.

"We're hoping that people won't have to wait that long," said Shawn Saucier, spokesman for US Citizenship and Immigration Services. But, he added, "What we're facing is immense."
[Emphasis added]

The federal government announced the upcoming fee increase (more than 50%) a few months before it went into effect. A prudent manager would have anticipated a rush to avoid the increase, but not the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. It is just now hiring additional staff, and only because the stacks of applications have become embarrassingly high and noticeable by just about everyone. For an administration affiliated with a party that claims government needs to be run more like a business, and which has an Ivy League MBA in the top-spot, this screw-up is really amazing, that is, if it actually is a screw-up.

Some people, including the immigrants applying to be citizens and the people who have assisted them, think more is involved here:

Lucy Pineda, founder and director of Everett-based Latinos United in Massachusetts, said she feared the delays were attempts by the Republican administration to thwart would-be Latino voters, who tend to vote Democratic nationally, in the presidential election. "Unfortunately, they're not going to be able to vote," she said. "They're trying to close the doors."

"Unpossible," claims the government spokesman (and here comes the money quote):

But Saucier said it is "absurd" to suggest that the delay is politically motivated, and pointed out that applications for citizenship and other benefits jumped even more than officials had anticipated after the July 30 fee hike, from $400 to $675. [Emphasis added]

Yeah, right.

360 days to go.

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