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Immigration Report: Long-time Limbo for Thousands in Michigan

August 11, 2008

Grand Rapids, MI – Applying to become a United States citizen is a process that's supposed to take just a few months. However, for thousands of people in Michigan and across the nation, it's taking much longer - in some cases, years. A new report from the National Immigration Forum documents the persistent backlog in citizenship applications, and how it affects immigrant families, their employment situations, and even their ability to travel.

Ali Ahmed of Grand Rapids is originally from Somalia. He applied for citizenship in 2003, and says it's been frustrating because he is only allowed to ask for an update every six months, and never learns what the problem is.

"During this five-year period, I call them every six months and they tell me, 'Your case is pending.' They don't give me answers."

Report author Rosalind Gold points out that it's a big decision for immigrants to decide to become citizens of this country, and its importance should be acknowledged with better communication.

"When people take that step, it's at a point when they should be seeing the best face of our government, not the worst. We could do a better job of welcoming people to America."

Those helping Ahmed with his case say his application is stuck at the FBI, awaiting a mandatory background check. The report credits the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service with hiring additional staff members to deal with the backlogs, but criticizes the agency for failing to communicate with citizens-in-waiting about the process. It can be viewed online at www.immigrationforum.org.

Deborah Smith/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - MI