Immigrants Try to Keep Up with Green Card Yo-Yo
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
After two weeks of protests, the Bush administration has reversed itself and agreed to accept a flood of applications for work-based green cards - those are permanent visas. In a bureaucratic squabble earlier this month, the State Department called for the applications and then the immigration agency rejected them saying the annual quota had been met.
NPR's Jennifer Ludden has the latest.
JENNIFER LUDDEN: For those wondering what happened to applications already mailed in, Citizenship and Immigration Services spokesman Bill Wright says don't worry.
Mr. BILL WRIGHT (Spokesman, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services): We are holding them. They are now pending applications and we will continue to receive them throughout the month of July, as well as the first 17 days of August.
LUDDEN: Wright says the agency responded to intense public reaction. In addition to joining two class action lawsuits, immigrants sent more than 200 bouquets of flowers to CIS headquarters. They marched in Silicon Valley. They lobbied Congress.
Mr. WRIGHT: And we took note of that. We heard it. We listened to it. And we're trying to make it right.
Mr. VICAZ CHAUDRY(ph) (Software Developer; Activist, Immigration Voice): You know, this is one of the reasons why I love to live in this country, why I want to settle here, just because a bunch of non-citizens by their peaceful protest are able to make something happen.
LUDDEN: Vicaz Chaudry is a software developer from India and an activist with Immigration Voice, an online support group whose members spawned much of the lobbying effort. He and many others say they hope that now, the heart of the problem, as they see it, will finally be addressed - that's too few work-based visas to meet an overwhelming demand. But with thousands of new applications coming in, Chaudry says the backlog will only grow worse.
Mr. CHAUDRY: All of a sudden, they opened the floodgates. But then, if somewhere down the line, something else is closed, it's going to flood the entire system.
LUDDEN: Chaudry still expects to wait years for his green card. Adding insult to injury, the immigration ombudsman has found that tens of thousands of green card slots are simply wasted through slow processing. Immigrants say Congress should step in and make sure all those unused visas go to someone.
Jennifer Ludden, NPR News, Washington.
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