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INS plans to speed Cuban immigration

Pedro Pablo Machado, a native of Cuba, raises his hand as he is sworn in as new U.S. citizen in Miami in 2001.

TEXT OF STORY

SCOTT JAGOW: The U.S. government said this week that applications for citizenship have doubled this year. That's not gonna help the backlog. New fees were supposed to reduce the wait, but it's still more than a year. At the same time, the INS has launched new measures to speed up the immigration process for Cubans. From our Americas Desk at WLRN, Dan Grech reports.


DAN GRECH: Anyone who's recently filed to become an American citizen can expect to wait at least 16 months. In July, the federal agency responsible for immigration hiked the naturalization fee from $330 to $595. The plan was to hire more staff to cut the backlog of requests. The opposite happened, as tens of thousands of would-be Americans rushed to beat the deadline.

Cheryl Little runs the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center in Miami.

CHERYL LITTLE: Immigration officials never seem to have enough staff or resources to do the job. And it's particularly troubling these days because of the increased fees.

This week, immigration officials announced a new measure: Cubans with family in the U.S. will be allowed to travel here without a visa while they wait for their green card. Little says no other immigrant group can do that.

LITTLE: I'm sure that Haitians and other groups would welcome similar policies.

Ninoska Perez is director of the Cuban Liberty Council. She says Cubans should be treated differently.

NINOSKA PEREZ: Other countries have immigration because they want a better job or they want a better life. Cubans leave the island because they're looking for freedom. Their relatives pay thousands of dollars for people to get them in on speedboats into the United States. It is a very dangerous journey.

The journey through the immigration process won't be getting any shorter. In the 2007 fiscal year, 1.4 million people applied for naturalization.

In Miami, I'm Dan Grech for Marketplace.

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