Delays in the processing of Applications at the INS District Office and California Service Center have placed the entire agency on the brink of collapse. Indeed, many commentators and high-ranking Congressional Committee members have suggested that the only solution is to dismantle the INS and redistribute its duties among other agencies. While the debate continues, however, the only recourse for the individual applicant is to seek the assistance of a law firm experienced in the inner-workings of the INS, which can track down any application and “press the right buttons” to bring their clients’ cases to a successful conclusion.
The INS, from its headquarters in Washington down to the local district offices, has been promising the public improved service in virtually every department. In the meantime, individuals are forced to suffer inordinate delays, causing separation from family, loss of business revenue and even deportation while the INS implements one “new procedure” after another in vain attempts to alleviate its gigantic backlog of cases. Unfortunately, each new procedure promises to be no better, if not worse, then the previous, such that the only result will be perpetual employment for those INS employees assigned to clear the backlog.
For example, one local INS District office has just implemented a new procedure for individuals to “follow-up” their applications for adjustment of status, or “green cards.” First, the individual must “line-up” outside the INS building and obtain a “ticket” entitling him to visit an officer in the adjustment of status unit. Due to limited availability of tickets, however, the individual must arrive between 4 and 6 a.m. if he expects to obtain such a ticket. Once he has a ticket, the individual may receive a “45 day letter,” which means that INS will call him in to discuss his case in 45 days. This is preferable to the other alternative, in which INS schedules the individual for an appointment in six months to “discuss his case!”
Similarly, with naturalization applications an individual must obtain a ticket in by arriving at approximately 5:00 in the morning, in order to be permitted upstairs to request status information on his case. After a wait of several hours, the INS may give the individual such valuable information as “your case is still pending,” or “your fingerprints have not been cleared,” or “check back with us in 120 days.”
Fortunately, the law still provides avenues of relief for individuals stuck in these predicaments. The INS is required to act on most applications within a “reasonable time” under the Administrative Procedure Act, (“APA”). This means that a competent attorney can notify INS of an individual’s intent to sue in Federal Court, in order to force action on the case. If no action is forthcoming, however, the attorney must be prepared to make good on his promise to INS, and file the lawsuit.
Most delays in Naturalization applications are unauthorized under the Immigration and Nationality Act itself. Once a delay becomes intolerable, the Attorney is duty-bound to notify the INS of his client’s intent to sue, and prepare to file the lawsuit.
While these laws offer a viable alternative to the INS’ inefficient “follow-up” procedures, only an attorney who is renowned for “making good” on promises to take action in Federal Court will receive the attention from INS that his clients’ cases deserve. Once that attorney makes his clients’ intentions known to the INS, positive results usually follow.