AILA Urges President and Congress to Get Serious about Backlog Reduction

Contact: Julia Hendrix or (202) 216-2404
July 3, 2003
Becoming American
The Reality of the American Dream

Washington, DC - On July 4th, immigrants nationwide will demonstrate their patriotism and love for America by becoming citizens. Many members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) will be joining their clients at naturalization ceremonies as these immigrants begin their journey as new Americans.

"Becoming an American on Independence Day has special significance, and not just for the obvious patriotic reasons," states Palma Yanni, President of AILA. "For many, this day represents the end of an arduous process. Many immigrants face enormous hurdles just to come to the United States, and then the bureaucracy involved in becoming an American can be daunting."

Currently, an immigrant's application to become a citizen takes a year or more to process. It can take up to 4 years or even longer to process applications for permanent residency.

"Many hardworking, tax-paying immigrants struggle to understand an increasingly complex immigration system that seems to thwart people's efforts to become U.S. citizens," continued Yanni.

"The pursuit of the American dream is endemic to all immigrants. However, the current system just doesn't make those dreams a reality," states Yanni. "President Bush promised he would fix the immigration system and that six months to process applications would be the norm. We urge him to live up to that promise."

The President promised to spend $100 million a year for 5 years to achieve a 6-month application processing time. However, in the current FY 2004 budget not even this minimal amount of money is set aside to meet this important goal.

"Backlogs in obtaining green cards and citizenship have a real impact on people's lives," states Yanni. "Such backlogs make it difficult, if not impossible, to reunite with family; certain jobs are off-limits; and travel may be difficult, if not prohibited. The President and Congress also have to get serious about immigration by reforming our out-of-date policies. Promising to throw money at a system that doesn't work is not good enough. We must make the American dream a reality."

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Founded in 1946, AILA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that provides its Members with continuing legal education, information, and professional services. AILA advocates before Congress and the Administration and provides liaison with the DHS and other government agencies. AILA is an Affiliated Organization of the American Bar Association.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 03070314.