JANUARY 2003

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Immigration Delays
From Hoy
By Maria del Carmen Amado

Lilia, who asked that her last name not be revealed, submitted her application for residency in 1991. But she has still not received her Green Card. Stories like hers are common among the more than one million of immigrants with cases pending.

After eleven years of negotiations, the Mexican mother from Jalisco has been informed by the Immigration and Nationalization Services that her record will be investigated for the first time. It will be treated according to the new measures that are part of the process of the immigration service’s incorporation into the new Department of Homeland Security, a process which has damaged millions of undocumented immigrants, according to one report by the New York Immigration Coalition.

"Five years ago I had an interview, and handed over everything they asked me for and they haven’t finished up with my passport," said Lilia, whose unstable immigration status "has damaged [her] psychologically."

During the presentation of the study, the director of the New York Immigration Coalition, Margie McHugh, said that the reorganization of the Immigration and Naturalization Service will increase the delays of negotiations over immigrant status for millions of workers and their families in the United States.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service initiated the period of transition with thousands of positions unfilled. Fifty percent of the department’s labor force is composed of temporary and contract workers, and a quarter of employees are on the brink of retirement, maintains the report. The law that creates the Homeland Security Department was signed in November by President George W. Bush. Considered the largest governmental restructuring since the Department of Defense in 1947, the measure taken after the September 11th attacks divides the responsibility of the Immigration and Naturalization Service into two agencies; the Bureau of Citizenship and Legal Services.

McHugh said that the department’s fragmented personnel will consider more than ten million applications per year in a new agency, where this type of work will have the lowest priority. "The INS applied to hire 534 employees, but they were not given anything."

According to Guillermo Chacon of the Salvadorian-American National Network, "there will be sad and hurtful parties for millions of immigrants this year. Although we are in support of national security, when immigrants get hit like this we have to protest because these same immigrants contribute to the American economy."

Chacon, along with the immigration coalition, asked president Bush to fulfill his campaign promise to reduce the application process for immigration status by six months, avoiding more suffering for immigrants. Since John Alvarado of El Salvador has turned in his application, the only thing he has received is "to pay higher costs without receiving a green card."

"Things could get worse for millions of immigrants and unfortunately our report shows that things are going to go from bad to worse," said McHugh.

Translated from Spanish by Joshua Brustein

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