Immigration Agency

Aims to Cut Backlog

The nation's immigration service announced yesterday that it is renewing efforts to reduce the backlog of applications for citizenship, green cards and other benefits.

Eduardo Aguirre Jr., director of the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, told Congress that his agency expects to reach its goal of processing almost all applications in six months or less by the end of 2006.

To do that, he expects that the FBI, customs and other law enforcement agencies will speed up the background checks that often hold up many immigration applications.

"We do depend on them, but we are already getting a faster turn-around time from the FBI," Aguirre said before he testified before the House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration.

William R. Yates, the immigration agency's associate director for operations, said FBI checks that took months in the 1990s now take only a couple of days.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, law enforcement officers have spent more time checking watch lists and other databases to research the records of people seeking citizenship or permanent residency. That extra scrutiny has added to delays.

Senate Panel Backs

Bush Judicial Nominee

The Senate Judiciary Committee, on a party-line vote , recommended seating a Michigan judge who was nominated 21/2 years ago to a federal appeals court.

The 10 to 9 vote won by the GOP majority sends the nomination of Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Henry Saad to the full Senate, where it faces an uncertain future.

Democrats could threaten to filibuster the nomination, as they have done to stall or block votes on six of President Bush's more contentious judicial nominations.

Saad was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, which hears cases from federal district courts in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Campaign Donations of

Tex. Democrat Probed

A Texas prosecutor says he is looking into a state senator's contention that Rep. Martin Frost (D-Tex.) illegally funneled corporate donations to state legislative candidates in 2000. Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, is also looking into similar allegations against a political action committee created by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.).

Frost said yesterday that his PAC's 2000 contributions were entirely legal and that his accuser -- state Sen. Robert F. Deuell (R) -- is trying to deflect attention from the DeLay-related probe. He said Deuell cited a disclosure report covering three months and concluded that Frost's PAC had not received enough noncorporate money to cover the checks sent to Democratic legislative candidates. (Texas law bars campaigns from using corporate donations for most purposes.)

Frost said the complaint ignored the PAC's earlier accumulation of noncorporate money, which was sufficient to cover the checks sent to candidates.

Buying Medicine Online

Is Risky, Report Says

People who buy prescription medicine on the Internet risk taking damaged drugs or even getting counterfeits, according to a government report.

Drugs from Web sites in other countries -- except Canada -- are especially likely to be mishandled and to exclude warning information, a General Accounting Office report said.

Buying cheaper drugs online, especially from Canada, has become a growing trend as drug costs rise and more Americans lose health insurance benefits.

-- From News Services

and Staff Reports