NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

INS Canceling Citizenship Ceremonies While Awaiting FBI Checks

December 13, 2002

Six citizenship ceremonies involving more than 1,500 immigrants have been canceled by Immigration and Naturalization Service officials in New York alone as they waited for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to run security checks. Officials at both the immigration service and the Justice Department say such problems are not confined to New York, but are "happening sporadically across the nation."

  • Several government officials say the problem arises from the FBI's inability to check all the names they are given.
  • One law enforcement official said recent communications problems between the bureau and the service have allowed some people with questionable backgrounds to become citizens.
  • The most notable case involved a man in New York who was naturalized despite suspected ties to the Islamic group, Hezbollah -- an incident which led the naturalization service to place five employees on administrative leave.
  • The process for naturalization includes fingerprint checks and applicants must establish that they have never been arrested.

The FBI blames the postponements on a tremendous backlog of security cases and insufficient personnel. Officials also point out that they are now required to conduct checks on all pilots in the country -- both civilian and commercial.

Source: Marc Santora, "Citizenship Delayed for 1,500; Security Check Backlog Cited," New York Times, December 13, 2002.


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