Few Asylum Applicants Succeed in Immigration Court; Chances Improve Greatly With Attorney Representa

An audit of the Immigration and Naturalization Service shows that there is a backlog of Naturalization processing of over one million cases. Some persons waiting years to obtain an interview, approval of their naturalization application and invitation to a swearing-in ceremony.

Compounding the problem for the INS backlog is an acute problem in the Los Angeles District Office which lacks a comprehensive computer program for tracking cases. This has resulted in over 44,000 cases which the INS acknowledges are “lost”. Between the backlog and persistent problem of lost files, some individuals wait years to obtain a naturalization interview and swearing in ceremony.

Applicants for legal permanent residency, or naturalization, suffer real hardship from the lengthy delays in processing their cases. In many cases parents are separated from their children, or unable to obtain immigration benefits for family members. In legal permanent residency cases, applicants are forced to renew applications for work authorization, year after year, and are unable to travel outside the United States without fear of being refused re-entry.

In many cases applicants are fully qualified to become naturalized citizens, demonstrating continuous residence in the United States for well over the statutory 5 year requirement. These persons file for naturalization, and nothing happens. Applicants then wait in long lines to make inquiries about their case, only to be told, “your case has been transferred to another location”, or “there is a backlog, come back in four months”. In some cases an applicant has moved, submitted a change of address to the INS yet the INS still sends correspondence to an address that has not been in use for years.

I have encountered clients who have waited as long as ten years to obtain action on their application with the INS. Many of these people are diligent, making regular inquiries every six months, and every six months they hear the same story from the officer that they consult with “there is a backlog come back in four months.”

The fact is, that in many instances the officer at the Los Angeles District Office is unable to locate your file. Worse the District Office is unable or unwilling to take the time and re-construct your file so that adjudication of your application can proceed. This leaves you at a stalemate with the INS you have your application filed, the INS refuses to take further action because it cannot produce your papers, now you are left with a choice compel the INS to act through the courts, or re-file your application.

Re-filing your application. For many persons their only option is to re-file the naturalization application, this is problematic because now there are two applications on file which may add to the confusion in processing the case. In addition there is a guaranteed wait of up to one year for processing on the new application. In addition the underlying problem, your missing case file will still delay adjudication of your new application. The attorney and filing fees you incurred in re-filing may not solve your problem.

Filing an action with the Federal District Court. Where the INS has delayed adjudication of your case, and there is no reasonable justification for this delay, an attorney may file an action in mandamus. Essentially by going to court you bring the oversight of a Federal District Court Judge to bear on the officers who are obligated to process your naturalization (or Green Card) application. With a judge looking over its shoulder the INS has proven much more cooperative in resolving long-delayed cases. Typically a response and resolution of the case can be had within 60 days of the legal papers being served on the INS.

Going to Federal District court is not for everyone, and you will need an attorney admitted to practice in the federal courts. At some point you will decide to stop waiting and wondering and worrying about your pending application, that’s when you should decide to consult with a qualified attorney who offers federal litigation as an important option to resolving long-delayed applications with the INS.