A couple of months ago, a woman approached a Miami immigration law firm with a problem: her naturalization application had seemingly stalled — it was stuck in processing for nearly a decade. She had gone through her citizenship interview, but never heard back.
The staff of the nonprofit law firm, Americans for Immigrant Justice (AIJ), reached out to the woman’s congressional representative, U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fl, for help.
“I want to say that within a couple of weeks of reaching out to [Rep. Wilson’s office], they got back in touch and let us know that a notification [to take part in a naturalization oath ceremony] was being mailed to the client,” said Adonia Simpson, the law firm’s director of family defense. “It got resolved.”
Wilson’s assistance in the case of the stalled naturalization application broadly falls under the umbrella of constituent service — that’s when Congressional members help people with thorny problems involving federal agencies, including those overseeing immigration.
When it comes to immigration, Simpson said the offices of congressional representatives can be helpful by potentially speeding up the adjudication of cases that have run into considerable delays, and by inquiring about a case’s status.
“It depends on what the issue is and what the case is but from our experience, our congressional representatives have been very responsive. That doesn’t mean we always have success; there are issues that can’t be resolved by a congressional inquiry,” said Simpson. “But if it comes to processing delays and things like that, the congressional representatives have had a lot of success for our clients.”
HELPING COUNTER GROWING DELAYS
The number of delayed applications and petitions for immigration benefits — that’s everything from green cards to immigrant work visas — is vast and expanding. During fiscal year 2018, the most recent year for which data is available, the gross backlog of delayed cases at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reached nearly 5.7 million — up 69 percent from 2014 and up 29 percent from 2016.
BY LAUTARO GRINSPAN for MIAMI HERALD
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