For immediate release Contact: Jami Deise
March 5, 1998 Phone: 202-216-2404
Proposed Legislation Will Restore Fairness to the Naturalization Process,
According to American Immigration Lawyers Association
Washington, D.C. – Legislation introduced today by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO) will give the naturalization process support and resources consistent with the awesome importance of its mission – to grant the honor of citizenship to the United States of America. "The New American Citizenship Act" will reduce the wait for citizenship (currently estimated at two years), strengthen the integrity of the process, and better equip new Americans for citizenship.
"For individuals who want to become U.S. citizens, but were not lucky enough to have been born here, going through the naturalization process requires hard work and perseverance," said Margaret McCormick, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). "This legislation ensures that the process will work just as hard as the immigrant working to become naturalized."
Over 4.5 million immigrants have taken the oath of allegiance to the United States in the past five years, a record number. But the process has become tainted with questions of sloppiness and errors. As a result, those immigrants who worked so hard to become citizens found their motives and their backgrounds doubted and disparaged. And those waiting in line to become citizens found their wait growing longer and longer due to the additional scrutiny that the process received.
"It is tragic that this group of hard-working individuals is scorned, rather than celebrated," commented AILA Executive Director Jeanne Butterfield. "Naturalized citizens had to fight to earn what most of us take for granted. They should be lauded as role models, not derided as riff-raff."
The Immigration & Naturalization Service estimates that 1.8 million immigrants will apply for naturalization in 1998. "The New American Citizenship Act’ assures that these applicants will not waste years in line that they could have spent contributing to America’s civic life," said McCormick.
"America is a nation of immigrants," concluded Butterfield. "Our strength is drawn from these individuals. If our naturalization process is weak, that weakness will reverberate across the entire country. The Kennedy-Gephardt bill will give the process the reverence it deserves."