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106th CONGRESS

2d Session

S. 2586
To reduce the backlog in the processing of immigration benefit applications and to make improvements to infrastructure necessary for the effective provision of immigration services, and for other purposes.


IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

May 18, 2000
Mrs. FEINSTEIN (for herself, Mr. ABRAHAM, Mr. LEAHY, Mr. JEFFORDS, Mr. REID, Mr. MOYNIHAN, Ms. MIKULSKI, Mr. GRAHAM, Mr. DURBIN, and Mr. DEWINE) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

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A BILL
To reduce the backlog in the processing of immigration benefit applications and to make improvements to infrastructure necessary for the effective provision of immigration services, and for other purposes.


Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of América in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the `Immigration Services and Infrastructure Improvements Act of 2000'.

SEC. 2. CONGRESSIONAL FINDINGS AND PURPOSES.

(a) FINDINGS- Congress makes the following findings:

(1) Applications for naturalization have increased dramatically in recent years, outpacing the Immigration and Naturalization Service's ability to process them.

(2) The dramatic increase in applications for naturalization and the inability of the Immigration and Naturalization Service to deal with them adequately has resulted in an unacceptably large backlog in naturalization adjudications.

(3) The processing times in the Immigration and Naturalization Service's other immigration benefits have been unacceptably long. Applicants for family- and employment-based visas are waiting as long as 3 to 4 years to obtain a visa or an adjustment to lawful permanent resident status.

(4) In California, the delays in processing adjustment of status applications have averaged 52 months. In Texas, the delays have averaged 69 months. Residents of New York have had to wait up to 28 months; in Florida, 26 months; in Illinois, 37 months; in Oregon, 31 months; and in Arizona, 49 months. Most other States have experienced unacceptably long processing and adjudication delays.

(5) Applicants pay fees to have their applications adjudicated in a timely manner. These fees have increased dramatically in recent years without a commensurate increase in the capability of that Immigration and Naturalization Service to process and adjudicate these cases in an efficient manner.

(6) Processing these applications in a timely fashion is critical. Each 12-month delay in adjudicating an adjustment of status application requires the alien to file applications to extend employment authorization to work and advance parole documents to travel.

(7) The enormous delays in processing applications for families and businesses have had a negative impact on the reunification of spouses and minor children and the ability of law-abiding and contributing members of our communities to participate fully in the civic life of the United States.

(8) United States employers have also experienced debilitating delays in hiring employees who contribute to the economic growth of the United States. These delays have forced employers to send highly skilled and valued employees out of the United States because their immigrant petitions were not approved in a timely fashion. Such disruptions seriously threaten the competitive edge of the United States in the global marketplace.

(b) PURPOSE- The purpose of this Act is to--

(1) provide the Immigration and Naturalization Service with the mechanisms it needs to eliminate the current backlog in the processing of immigration benefit applications within 1 year after enactment of this Act and to maintain the elimination of the backlog in future years; and

(2) provide for regular congressional oversight of the performance of the Immigration and Naturalization Service in eliminating the backlog and processing delays in immigration benefits adjudications.

(c) POLICY- It is the sense of Congress that the processing of an immigration benefit application should be completed not later than 180 days after the initial filing of the application, except that a petition for a nonimmigrant visa under section 214(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act should be processed not later than 30 days after the filing of the petition.

SEC. 3. DEFINITIONS.

In this Act:

(1) BACKLOG- The term `backlog' means, with respect to an immigration benefit application, the period of time in excess of 180 days that such application has been pending before the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

(2) IMMIGRATION BENEFIT APPLICATION- The term `immigration benefit application' means any application or petition to confer, certify, change, adjust, or extend any status granted under the Immigration and Nationality Act.

SEC. 4. IMMIGRATION SERVICES AND INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROVEMENT ACCOUNT.

(a) AUTHORITY OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL- The Attorney General shall take such measures as may be necessary to--

(1) reduce the backlog in the processing of immigration benefit applications, with the objective of the total elimination of the backlog not later than one year after the date of enactment of this Act;

(2) make such other improvements in the processing of immigration benefit applications as may be necessary to ensure that a backlog does not develop after such date; and

(3) make such improvements in infrastructure as may be necessary to effectively provide immigration services.

(b) AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS-

(1) IN GENERAL- There is authorized to be appropriated to the Department of Justice from time to time such sums as may be necessary for the Attorney General to carry out subsection (a).

(2) DESIGNATION OF ACCOUNT IN TREASURY- Amounts appropriated pursuant to paragraph (1) may be referred to as the `Immigration Services and Infrastructure Improvements Account'.

(3) AVAILABILITY OF FUNDS- Amounts appropriated pursuant to paragraph (1) are authorized to remain available until expended.

(4) LIMITATION ON EXPENDITURES- None of the funds appropriated pursuant to paragraph (1) may be expended until the report described in section 5(a) has been submitted to Congress.

SEC. 5. REPORTS TO CONGRESS.

(a) BACKLOG ELIMINATION PLAN-

(1) REPORT REQUIRED- Not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Attorney General shall submit a report to the Committees on the Judiciary and Appropriations of the Senate and the House of Representatives concerning--

(A) the backlogs in immigration benefit applications in existence as of the date of enactment of this Act; and

(B) the Attorney General's plan for eliminating such backlogs.

(2) REPORT ELEMENTS- The report shall include--

(A) an assessment of the data systems used in adjudicating and reporting on the status of immigration benefit applications, including--

(i) a description of the adequacy of existing computer hardware, computer software, and other mechanisms to comply with the adjudications and reporting requirements of this Act; and

(ii) a plan for implementing improvements to existing data systems to accomplish the purpose of this Act, as described in section 2(b);

(B) a description of the quality controls to be put into force to ensure timely, fair, accurate, and complete processing and adjudication of such applications;

(C) the elements specified in subsection (b)(2);

(D) an estimate of the amount of appropriated funds that would be necessary in order to eliminate the backlogs in each category of immigration benefit applications described in subsection (b)(2); and

(E) a detailed plan on how the Attorney General will use any funds in the Immigration Services and Infrastructure Improvements Account to comply with the purposes of this Act.

(b) ANNUAL REPORTS-

(1) IN GENERAL- Beginning 90 days after the end of the first fiscal year for which any appropriation authorized by section 4(b) is made, and 90 days after the end of each fiscal year thereafter, the Attorney General shall submit a report to the Committees on the Judiciary and Appropriations of the Senate and the House of Representatives concerning the status of--

(A) the Immigration Services and Infrastructure Improvements Account including any unobligated balances of appropriations in the Account; and

(B) the Attorney General's efforts to eliminate backlogs in any immigration benefit application described in paragraph (2).

(2) REPORT ELEMENTS- The report shall include--

(A) State-by-State data on--

(i) the number of naturalization cases adjudicated in each quarter of each fiscal year;

(ii) the average processing time for naturalization applications;

(iii) the number of naturalization applications pending for up to 6 months, 12 months, 18 months, 24 months, 36 months, and 48 months or more;

(iv) estimated processing times adjudicating newly submitted naturalization applications;

(v) an analysis of the appropriate processing times for naturalization applications; and

(vi) the additional resources and process changes needed to eliminate the backlog for naturalization adjudications;

(B) the status of applications or, where applicable, petitions described in subparagraph (C), by Immigration and Naturalization Service district, including--

(i) the number of cases adjudicated in each quarter of each fiscal year;

(ii) the average processing time for such applications or petitions;

(iii) the number of applications or petitions pending for up to 6 months, 12 months, 18 months, 24 months, 36 months, and 48 months or more;

(iv) the estimated processing times adjudicating newly submitted applications or petitions;

(v) an analysis of the appropriate processing times for applications or petitions; and

(vi) a description of the additional resources and process changes needed to eliminate the backlog for such processing and adjudications; and

(C) a status report on--

(i) applications for adjustments of status to that of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence;

(ii) petitions for nonimmigrant visas under section 214 of the Immigration and Nationality Act;

(iii) petitions filed under section 204 of such Act to classify aliens as immediate relatives or preference immigrants under section 203 of such Act;

(iv) applications for asylum under section 208 of such Act;

(v) registrations for Temporary Protected Status under section 244 of such Act; and

(vi) a description of the additional resources and process changes needed to eliminate the backlog for such processing and adjudications.

(3) ABSENCE OF APPROPRIATED FUNDS- In the event that no funds are appropriated subject to section 4(b) in the fiscal year in which this Act is enacted, the Attorney General shall submit a report to Congress not later than 90 days after the end of such fiscal year, and each fiscal year thereafter, containing the elements described in paragraph (2).