The bureaucratic immigration system has been bogged down since tightening its scrutiny levels after 9/11. With a surge of petitions for citizenship since that time, and the increased depth at which the applicants are screened, it takes years for a petition to make it through the process.
Long time legal, permanent residents of the United States may see some relief soon. A class action lawsuit filed by Muslim immigrants against immigration authorities claims discrimination based on ethnicity and religion. Authorities responded by saying they are doubling efforts to clear out the backlog and should be completed by November of this year. Once the backlog is cleared, new applications for citizenship should be processed in a more timely manner.
In May, 2008, there were over 82,000 petitions for citizenship. That number has been reduced to 10,000 as of October.
The US Department of Homeland Security edicts that the FBI check backgrounds and names of all immigrant petitions, including green card applications. After September 11, the number of checks jumped from about 2.7 million to over 4 million a year. The understaffed department used a paper system that was out of date and impeded the process.
"The background checks and severe scrutiny is on every single application since 9/11," said the USCIS' Cabrera. "We do not choose one religion, nationality over another. I understand that it can be frustrating at times because there aren't always answers."
However, many class action lawsuits across the nation are being brought by Muslim and Arab citizens. They claim they are facing fiercer scrutiny because of their race. The lawsuits have spurred organization and the FBI is now pushing the applications through in a more timely manner.