Skilled immigrants wait on Congress


KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The latest fights over immigration have focused on
who should get a place in line for a legal life in the United States.
But the real agony, says Tien Bui, comes when you finally get in line.

Bui, who came to the U.S. as a Vietnamese refugee and is now an
engineer for Boeing Co., can’t take the career-boosting position he’s
been offered because his citizenship application is lodged somewhere
inside the Department of

Homeland Security.
With green card in hand, Bui has waited patiently since 2003 for his
fingerprints to clear background checks, a process that’s become more
involved since Sept. 11.

But if Congress approves a new guest worker program, the overall
waiting period for Bui and the millions of legal immigrants like him
could grow even longer, says a report by the

Government Accountability Office.

President Bush
mandated that by September of this year, the immigration backlog should
be eliminated and DHS should start processing all cases in six months
or less, a deadline the agency is optimistic it can meet.

But a spider web of agencies — including the

Department of Labor,
the Department of State and the Federal Bureau of Investigation — is
also involved in evaluating and approving legal immigration

If there are more petitions to process, the overall delays could
increase, experts say. At DHS alone, some skilled foreign workers must
wait five years to apply for a green card, something American
engineering companies say is harming their competitive edge.

“I truly think if Albert Einstein were in my office in 2006, he
would be saying ‘I’m going to Canada rather than wait any longer,'”
said Judy Bourdeau, a Kansas City immigration attorney who is filing
employment petitions for several Fortune 500 companies.

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