Is INS Driving You Crazy With Delays?

The following are typical examples of the kinds of inexcusable delays we hear about in consultation everyday.

Mr. F is from the Philippines and the beneficiary of an I-130 petition from his United States citizen spouse. This petition and his application for permanent residency were submitted to the INS 2 years ago and they are still waiting for his ‘green card’ interview.

Mr. C believes that his life would be in danger if returned to his native country. He filed an application for asylum in 1995. After proving a well-founded fear for his safety the INS asylum officer issued an interim “recommended approval” on his case. Mr. C was still waiting for the INS to issue his final approval 5 years later.

Mr. H was granted lawful permanent residency in 1988 as a young boy and subsequently filed an application for naturalization in 1994. In 1998 his case was scheduled for an interview but by this time his fingerprints had expired. His case was then continued pending the results of his fingerprint check. He was waiting for 6 years.

Ms. T is a well-educated executive from China. A labor certification was issued on her behalf in 1993. Her adjustment of status application has been pending since that time. Her file was transferred from the Service Center to the Los Angeles district office in 1997 but there has been no movement since. This delay has caused her to be separated from her family for the past 7 years while the application was pending.

Sound familiar? Fortunately these immigrants came to our office where we were able to successfully complete their applications within a few short weeks. These cases are just a small example of the kind of delays facing immigrants and applicants for naturalization today.

The INS acknowledged in a Government Accounting Office report that the backlog in pending adjustment of status applications had increased substantially. This backlog has caused legal immigration to be lower then it should be.

It was also noted in the GAO report that there are “statistically significant differences” in the processing delays among the district offices with Los Angeles rating as one of the slowest in most categories. The GAO finally noted: Differences in processing times mean that aliens in different INS districts have had to wait disparate amounts of time for their applications to be processed. In the Los Angeles district aliens face some of the longest delays in the United States.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service is responsible for processing various immigration applications. Under federal law the INS is required to adjudicate these applications “within a reasonable time.” The U.S. General Accounting Office reports: “INS’ goal is that the application process will be timely, consistent, fair and of high quality.’ The GAO went on to note that what was considered “reasonable time’ by the INS included 6 months for adjustment of status and naturalization interviews and 3 months for work authorization

While applications pile up unadjudicated for years and the INS continues to be understaffed and overworked processing time becomes anything but reasonable. The pleas for action from immigrants go unanswered. What then can an immigrant do? Who can they turn to for help?

What should an alien do when his or her application has been pending for months or even years with the Immigration Service with no adjudication in sight. Under the Federal Administrative Procedure Act federal agencies including the INS are required to adjudicate applications “within a reasonable time.” It is the job of the immigrant’s attorney to make sure the INS follows the law.

When the INS is not adjudicating an application within a reasonable period of time, the attorney should follow up with the INS by making phone calls and requesting in writing for the status of the case and for adjudication of the application. The applicant in this case should choose an attorney with an outstanding reputation and established relationship with his colleagues at the INS.

When these informal methods are unsuccessful, the attorney should, on the applicant’s behalf, file suit in the U.S. District Court requesting that the Court order the Immigration Service to adjudicate the application. This type of lawsuit is called a Writ of Mandamus, which seeks to compel an officer or employee of the United States or 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 within a reasonable time.

Each week our law firm is retained to help move the application and interview process forward, usually; with successful results. I believe that our clients should be treated as first class citizens and deserve the best representation possible. I will not allow my client’s cases to languish at the INS or tell my clients to go to the INS and check the status of their own case. The client did not hire the attorney so that they could then stand in line and ask why his or her case has not been adjudicated in the last few years.

For over 20 years Robert L. Reeves and Associates have developed a successful rapport with the INS and its administration. Our firm has also has developed a reputation of successfully fighting for our client’s rights, even if that means a lawsuit in n Federal District Court.