AMERICAN IMMIGRATION LAWYERS ASSOCIATION
1400 EYE STREET N.W. Suite 1200
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20005
For immediate release
December 18, 1997
Contact: Peggy McCormick
New Report Proves that Naturalization Process is Sound
Chicago, IL - The accounting firm KPMG Peat Marwick released a report yesterday
that concludes that INS naturalization procedures have integrity. The report confirmed
that district offices are complying with the new quality procedures that the agency
initiated last June in response to Congressional scrutiny.
"This clean bill of health should allow INS and Congress to turn their attention
where it needs to be - to clearing the unconscionable backlogs and providing timely
adjudications for naturalization applicants," stated AILA President Margaret
In response to vastly increased demand that created unacceptable backlogs, the INS had
launched its "Citizenship USA" initiative in early 1996. In Chicago, Mayor
Daley’s Citizenship Assistance Council worked in partnership with the INS to promote
Citizenship USA efforts, hosting large swearing-in ceremonies at places like Navy Pier,
the United Center and the University of Illinois. The Citizenship USA program resulted in
grants of citizenship to 1.046 million people in 1996.
Congress conducted extensive oversight hearings to review the program in 1997, alleging
widespread INS abuse in the naturalization program and charging that thousands of
"criminals" were erroneously granted citizenship. A prior audit already had
concluded that these charges had little factual basis, and that fewer than 300
applications were mistakenly granted in 1996, an error rate of well under 1%.
Nevertheless, INS took steps to improve its procedures and quality controls. The Justice
Department contracted with Peat Marwick to audit these new procedures. The final audit
confirms the entire program’s accuracy and integrity.
"These audits confirm what we knew all along, that the vast majority of immigrants
applying to become citizens are honest, dependable individuals who want nothing more than
to take on all rights and responsibilities associated with American citizenship,"
McCormick stated. "By implying that a significant percentage of naturalized citizens
had criminal records, Congress did a real disservice to our immigrant communities."
Further, while reforms were underway, and Congressional attention focused unduly on the
miniscule percentage of people wrongly naturalized, the citizenship backlog has continued
to grow. In 1997, 1.6 million applications for naturalization were received, but only
569,822 were approved. "This means that over 1 million applications for
naturalization are currently pending," explained McCormick.
Experts now estimate that the backlog will cause current citizenship applicants to wait
over two years for their paperwork to be processed. "AILA commends INS’ plans to
reduce this huge backlog. While timely adjudications of naturalization applications remain
a high priority, we want to make sure that sufficient resources are also allocated to
family and employment-based adjudications so that the reduction of one backlog does not
lead to the creation of others," McCormick continued.
"The Peat Marwick audit proves that the U.S. naturalization process is
sound," McCormick concluded. "It is time we turn our attention back to the
worthy goals of Citizenship USA - reaffirming our nation’s highest tradition of
welcoming newcomers and fulfilling their aspirations to become part of our nation."