INS Adjudications Delays, INS Fees and Some Scary Legislative Proposals
February 28, 2003

INS Adjudication Delays

As previously covered in this column, INS offices around the U.S. have implemented new security check protocols in the processing of various applications for immigration benefits, particularly lawful permanent residence and U.S. citizenship. Specifically, before an applicant is granted their immigration benefit, the INS must receive the green light from the FBI after their name is processed through the FBI’s own security filter. This protocol is in addition to the fingerprint check wherein the applicant’s prints are analyzed against a nationwide database of federal, state and local law enforcement authority records containing fingerprints of individuals with any type of contact with their agency.

In recent months, the INS instituted a nationwide hold on the issuance of approvals for these types of applications while the new security procedures were being implemented. The nationwide hold has been lifted, and it now appears progress is being made, although decisions only seem to be trickling in and with very little consistency. Adding to the delays is the frequent re-assignment of INS personnel due to shifting agency priorities and the implementation of other new security initiatives, such as Special Registration (for Middle Eastern nonimmigrants). So for those with pending applications, the circumstances outlined above may very well account for the delays in the issuance of a decision.

INS Fees

After filing fees were reduced 1 month ago as a result of an odd legislative technicality, the INS has announced that as of February 27, 2003, all filing fees will return to the same higher levels they were at prior to the fee decrease.

Scary Legislative Proposals

Although not formally presented for congressional consideration, a proposal is in the works to further reduce the due process rights of nonimmigrants, lawful permanent residents and even U.S. citizens. Recently leaked to the media, the Bush administration’s Patriot Act II (with the formal title, “Domestic Security Enforcement Act of 2003”) is conceived of in the name of national security and fighting terrorism and includes provisions authorizing secret arrests, opening immigration files to local police, stripping U.S. citizenship for associational activities, expanding the implementation of expedited deportation proceedings (with a further erosion of due process protections), and the enhancement of criminal penalties for minor immigration violations.

Although I will not deny the fact that our country is in need of strategies to improve our security and combat terrorism, Bush’s proposals scare me.

One, the substance of the proposals is extreme and disproportionate, with many, many, many innocent and decent individuals standing to be adversely impacted.

Second, the essence of our constitution, most notably an individual’s right to due process and judicial review, is being trampled on.

Third, the desperate U.S. public is so scared (and rightly so) of the threats terrorism poses on our daily lives, that any legislative proposal that sounds like it might protect our society may all too easily be accepted as appropriate.

Remember, these proposals have yet to be even presented for congressional debate, but look out for them and pay careful attention to them once the debate begins.

Copyright © 2003-2008, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois