FBI’s Name Check Program Will Eliminate Backlogs Says USCIS

New US citizens taking the Pledge of Alligiance. Photo: USCIS

New US citizens taking the Pledge of Alligiance. Photo: USCIS

By Dolores M. Bernal, NEWS JUNKIE POST

Immigrants seeking to live and travel to the United States will now get better service from the FBI. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on Monday that the two organizations had “met all milestones” to improve and make the process of checking names against the FBI database, quicker.

The FBI’s National Name Check Program is used by the USCIS, but also by other agencies to run background checks on people who want to work for the federal government, attend a White House function, or obtain a Green card or naturalization, according to the FBI’s website.

But processing all those names clogged the system after September 11, 2001. The FBI says that there was a surge on name checking requests from the USCIS creating a backlog, which created monumental delays in the application process for the USCIS as they waited for the FBI to clear people’s identities. There were some 349,000 names needed to be processed in March; of that, 150,000 names had been pending for more than six months, according to the USCIS.

The delays sparked public outrage after the Justice Department inspector general did an audit back in 2008 and found that the FBI’s Name Check Program, “[relied] on outdated technology and poorly trained workers. Some immigrants awaiting resolution are denied the right to work or to study. And, significant in an election year, they are denied the chance to vote.”

Soon after the Department of Justice’s audit, the Washington Post published an editorial on June 14, 2008 accusing the FBI of being “incompetent” and for “punishing immigrants who play by the rules.”

Here is a snippet of the Post’s editorial, “The Name Game.”

WHAT’S IN a name? For Ali Rahimian, it may be the difference between a quick path to citizenship and a two-year sentence to immigration purgatory. Dr. Rahimian has lived in the Washington area for 17 years, and, among other useful pursuits, has helped operate a free clinic for people who lack medical insurance. Two years ago, Dr. Rahimian, who was born in Iran, applied to become a U.S. citizen. His application was sent to the FBI for what should have been a routine background check, and Dr. Rahimian said he has not heard from the bureau since.

The FBI’s Assistant Director William Hooton wrote a letter to the editor of the Post that appeared on June 19, 2008 defending his agency and saying that after 9/11 the “then-Immigration and Naturalization Service resubmitted 2.7 million names to be rechecked on a much broader criterion: whether they had been referenced in a negative manner in an FBI file,” Hooton wrote.

The FBI teamed up with the USCIS to finds solutions to the backlog in April, 2008, just two months before the Post’s editorial.

Monday’s announcement included a list of what the FBI and USCIS have done to solve the backlog problem including hiring more people to do the name checks, offer more training to current agents who work in this department, and by refining the search criteria.

“Our close partnership with the FBI has resulted in the accomplishment of this significant achievement with national security as its foundation,” said USCIS Acting Deputy Director Michael Aytes. “This continued working relationship will help to ensure that name check processing is accomplished as quickly as possible without compromising security concerns.”



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