The applications of hundreds of thousands of would-be citizens and green-card holders have stalled in the FBI’s Name Check Program, a part of the immigration process officials say is critically important, yet remains understaffed nearly six years after 9/11, reports the Houston Chronicle. As of May, 329,160 FBI name check cases were pending. Of those, about 104,600 – or 32 percent – had been in the system for more than three months but less than a year. Sixteen percent, some 51,497 applicants, were pending between one and two years. About 17 percent of applicants had been waiting more than two years.
The problem has become so pervasive that hundreds of would-be citizens and green-card holders are suing the federal government to expedite their background checks. The plaintiffs in Houston include a former member of the Texas Army National Guard, a Chinese osteoarthritis researcher, a Russian petrophysicist, and a Peruvian doctor-in-residence. Immigration and FBI officials said they could not comment on specific cases but said more than 90 percent of cases are processed within a few months. An FBI spokesman attributed the long wait faced by the relatively small percentage of applicants to a “lack of resources and the sheer volume” of requests. The FBI receives about 70,000 name check requests per week from about 70 agencies.