DEARBORN — The U.S. Justice Department understands the frustrations of Arab and Muslim immigrants and is trying to speed up how long it takes to process permanent residency and citizenship applications, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Tuesday in a visit to Metro Detroit.

But Gonzales dismissed complaints that immigration applications from Arabs and Muslims are singled out for slower treatment. “I disagree with that,” he told reporters after a speech to the Detroit Economic Club in Dearborn.

The large volume of immigration applications, which some community leaders say are at a standstill, was among the concerns Gonzales heard during a morning meeting at the U.S. Attorney’s Office with about a dozen Arab-American and Muslim-American representatives.

“I understand about the frustration,” Gonzales said. “We’re looking at ways in which we can be more efficient.”

Background checks required to process the applications can take months and sometimes years, he said.

The department is looking at subcontracting some work, improving its databases and other measures to speed things up, he said.


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