Clinton administration moves to end INS backlog

Tens of thousands of Jewish refugees from the former Soviet Union are among the newcomers who have been caught up in the bureaucratic delays.

Under the plan, which requires congressional approval, the INS would shift $171 million into the citizenship process from other immigration programs. If all goes smoothly, the delay would drop to six months by October 1999, according to the INS.

But the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society is distressed by the administration's plan to restructure an INS department.

"While we're pleased that the INS is directing its efforts at improving service and cutting the untenable backlog, we continue to have some concerns," said Leonard Glickman, executive vice president of HIAS.

Under the plan announced last week, a year-old independent agency that has worked with some success to improve INS services would be folded back into the INS.

"Why go back to the old system, which was full of problems, when we're finally seeing reforms?" Glickman said.

Jewish officials are waiting to hear from the Clinton administration regarding their concern.

On a positive note, according to immigration advocates, the INS decided to ask Congress to postpone an increase in the fee for citizenship applicants until 1999.

In addition, the plan allows the INS in some cases to waive the fee, which will increase from $95 to $225.

"No one should be denied citizenship because they cannot pay a fee," said Diana Aviv, director of the Washington Action Office of the Council of Jewish Federations.