The Law Offices of Robert L. Reeves, a Professional Law Corporation, recently filed a lawsuit to force the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to act on naturalization cases that were being unreasonably delayed by the INS.
The INS is responsible for processing many different types of applications. Under the law it is supposed to adjudicate these applications “within a reasonable time.” When it fails to follow this law, the applicant can ask a federal judge to force the INS to adjudicate the application.
Immigrants make many different types of applications to the INS. One common application is for citizenship or, as it is called in the law, naturalization.
While these applications are pending before the INS the applicant often is in an uncertain situation. The applicant may be unable to obtain certain kinds of jobs, unable to vote in U.S. elections, unable to travel to certain countries and unable to obtain certain government benefits like social security. Waiting for the INS to adjudicate an application can be an anxious and uncomfortable experience.
After applying for naturalization, the law entitles each applicant to a reasonably timely interview and subsequent adjudication of the application. If the application is granted, the applicant is entitled to take the oath of allegiance, called the “final hearing,” thus finalizing the naturalization process.
In the recently filed lawsuit, Verde v. I.N.S., CV 97-4684 (CBM), the plaintiffs applications were filed between September 1994 and November 1996. At least one plaintiff is suffering from terminal cancer as she waits for her overdue application to be processed. Her doctors give her only a few more months to live, of which the INS is well aware. Her dream is to live as an American, even if for only a short period of time.
These plaintiffs have either not been granted timely interviews or timely oath-taking (final hearings). Plaintiffs have made numerous inquiries regarding the status of their cases. The INS has intentionally failed to respond to plaintiff’s inquiries or provided only a proforma responses. Under the federal Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C. § 555(b)), federal agencies, including the INS, are required to make decisions on applications “within a reasonable time.” It’s the job of an applicant’s attorney to make sure the INS follows this law.
When the attorney finds that the INS is not adjudicating an application “within a reasonable time,” the attorney should inform the responsible officials at INS in writing that the case is overdue. Sometimes this will work and the application will be adjudicated. However, if the INS does not respond, the attorney should be willing to file a lawsuit for the applicant against the INS to force it to adjudicate the application in a timely manner.
Under federal law, an applicant can sue “to compel an officer or employee of the United States or any agency thereof to perform a duty owed to the plaintiff.” This includes the duty under the Administrative Procedure Act that requires federal agencies to render decisions on applications and schedule oath-taking “within a reasonable time.”
The lawsuit is designed to force the INS to do its job so that our clients can live and work as American citizens and directly contribute to the greatest democracy the world has ever seen.
We recently filed two other lawsuits against the I.N.S. In Bautista v. I.N.S., we are trying to force the I.N.S. to act on I-485 or “green card” application cases that are being unreasonably delayed. In Cosio v. I.N.S., we are forcing the I.N.S. to comply with our clients’ requests under the Freedom of Information Act for documents about their cases. In all three lawsuits, the I.N.S. is engaging in unreasonable delays that deny our clients their rights.
This is the kind of representation that people deserve when the INS is not doing its job. Applicants must know that their attorney will do everything that legally can be done to ensure that the INS follows the law. When the attorney acts in this manner the INS learns that the attorney means business and will fight for the applicant’s right to a reasonably timely naturalization process. We hope to make the dream of American citizenship a reality for all the plaintiffs in our lawsuit.