A Bumpy Road to Citizenship
From The World Journal
September 18, 2003

On Sept. 17, the Citizenship Day, immigrant organizations representing different ethnic groups from all over New York City gathered in front of the Federal Office Building in Lower Manhattan to protest against “roadblocks to the naturalization of immigrants,” created by the Bush administration and the Department of Homeland Security, which has taken over the responsibilities of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Protestors said the government has delayed processing a large number of immigration documents without good reason, which has deprived rights of legal immigrants, prevented many of them from moving freely and caused unemployment and separation of families.

Nearly one hundred Hispanic, Asian, Russian and other people held signs that required the Bush administration to “keep open the road to naturalization,” “return rights to immigrants,” “speed up allocation of administrative resources and cut abnormal backlog of immigration documents.” Another sign read, “We pay taxes, but why can’t we vote?”

Margaret Chin, Deputy Executive Director of Asian Americans for Equality said Citizenship Day should be a special occasion when people celebrate becoming U.S. citizens but has lost its sense of celebration, when neither the Bush administration’s promise to end the immigration application backlog or assurance of the Department of Homeland Security to improve its service has come through.

Guoying Liu and Lai Luo were among victims of the delay. Liu, 57, obtained a green card shortly after he came to the United States. He passed the citizenship exam in 1996 but has been “ridiculed” by immigration officials for seven years, visiting the Federal Office Building more than 20 times and still waiting to be sworn in.

Lai Luo, 62, was in a worse situation. He passed the exam in 1999 and after endless waiting, required the INS to explain the delay. INS officials said they had revoked his entitlement to citizenship because he “did not inform INS when he moved.” Luo appealed, regained his qualification but was still waiting for notice of sworn-in. Stories of Liu and Lai were reoccurring every day. Margie McHugh, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said Bush’s promise was nothing but a lie, and that the backlog was getting worse with inequitable allocation of administrative resources and inadequate budget for immigrant services. Official statistics showed an unprecedented 1.2 million cases of green card application were in the backlog.

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Translated from Chinese by Shasha Dai

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