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Clear the backlog first

- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 30, 2007

Harry Reid boasted of his compassion for "undocumented Americans." President Bush wanted understanding for "newcomers" without papers. The so-called Grand Bargainers on both sides of the aisle in the Senate pushed forward this week with their massive plan to "regularize" the unregularized and bring in hundreds of thousands of extra foreign guest workers on top of the ones who are already here or have been waiting for approval for years.

But the effort failed Thursday when the bill fell 14 votes short of the 60 needed in the Senate to advance toward a final vote. Over the last several years, I've pinpointed the following immigration backlogs that continue to plague our homeland security system:

{bullet} The backlog of 600,000-plus fugitive deportee cases.

{bullet} The backlog of an estimated 100,000 FBI background checks for legal immigrant applicants.

{bullet} The disappearance of 111,000 citizenship applications.

{bullet} The backlog of 4 million immigration applications of all kinds.

The Washington Post reported that those mounds of unprocessed paperwork continue to grow. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants who came here legally are waiting for FBI background checks that must be obtained before they can become naturalized. Since 2005, the paper recently showed, the "backlog of legal U.S. immigrants whose applications for naturalization and other benefits are stuck on hold awaiting FBI name checks has doubled to 329,160."

That's right. The FBI name check backlog stands at nearly 330,000 cases.

After an embarrassing citizenship foul-up that I reported on in November 2002 involving a known Hezbollah terrorist who received naturalization approval, immigration officials resubmitted 2.7 million names of applicants to the FBI for additional scrutiny. The Post reports that "[m]ore than five years later, the FBI is only now emerging from that huge load, with about 5,800 names left to be rechecked."

But the pile-up persists: According to homeland security officials who spoke with The Post, about 90 percent of name checks emerge with no matches within three months, after an automated search of databases. But the rest can take months or years. There are only 30 analysts and assistants to coordinate with 56 field offices and retrieve files stored in 265 locations nationwide. The FBI is now falling further behind on the new caseload of some 1.5 million fresh names submitted by immigration officials every year.

"No one is happy with the status quo," U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Deputy Director Jonathan "Jock" Scharfen told the paper. "We share the public's unhappiness with this, and we're committed to improving the process."

Hey, how about we fix that process before adding millions more "guest worker" applications to the bureaucratic mess?

How about we make legal immigrant applicants the priority over illegal aliens for once?

How about we clear the obstructions to the "path to citizenship" for those who followed the rules and came here the right way before we start paving the "path to citizenship" for those who did it the wrong way?

When the shamnesty proponents start blubbering about compassion and fairness, ask them where their compassion is for the hundreds of thousands of legal immigrant applicants losing place to the illegals — and who have paid far more in legal fees and processing fees than the measly, cosmetic "fine" the shamnesty plan proposed for illegal aliens.

As I wrote back in January, when I warned of the Coming Amnesty Disaster while too many people were still snoozing:

We are incapable of imposing order and handling the current crush of legal immigrant applicants in a fair and timely way. You want "comprehensive immigration reform"? Start with border control, reliable adjudications, consistent interior enforcement, and efficient and effective deportation policies. And don't pretend that piling on is going to fix anything.

Memo to the Department of Homeland Security: Clear the backlogs first.

Memo to the Senate: Clear the backlogs first.

Memo to the White House: Clear the backlogs first.

Michelle Malkin is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of "Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild."