In a major policy shift aimed at reducing a ballooning immigration backlog, the Department of Homeland Security is preparing to grant permanent residency to tens of thousands of applicants before the FBI completes required background checks. Those eligible are immigrants whose fingerprints have cleared the FBI database of criminal convictions and arrests but whose names have not cleared the FBI's criminal or intelligence files after six months of waiting. The immigrants who are granted permanent status, more commonly known as getting their green cards, will be expected eventually to clear the FBI's name check. If they don't, their legal status will be revoked and they'll be deported. About 150,000 green card and naturalization applicants have been delayed by the FBI name check, with 30,000 held up more than three years. Advocates of stricter immigration enforcement accused DHS of creating security loopholes.
PORT WENTWORTH, Ga.
3 still missing after sugar plant blast
Search crews found no trace Sunday of three workers still missing in the smoldering remnants of a sugar refinery explosion last week that left at least five people dead and injured dozens more. Officials called off the search at sunset and had not searched a part of the Imperial Sugar plant that was still burning and where the buildings were dangerously unstable. Sugar still burning in two of the refinery's three badly damaged, 100-foot storage silos threatened to weaken the towering structures to the point of collapsing, Fire Chief Greg Long said. One of the silos blew up late Thursday, possibly after combustible sugar dust ignited.
Wind-fed wildfires burn buildings
Wind-whipped wildfires across the rain-starved Carolinas chased churchgoers from worship on Sunday and forced residents to flee dozens of homes threatened by flames. At least one business and an unknown number of homes and small structures were damaged by a blaze near the South Carolina coast, though no injuries were reported, authorities said. About 60 homes were briefly evacuated Sunday afternoon as the blaze sent smoke billowing above Conway.
Severe winter cancels church
It was so cold Sunday in the Upper Midwest, and visibility was so poor in blowing snow, that church services were called off in parts of Michigan. The windy, bitterly cold weather blanketed a region from the Dakotas across much of Minnesota into Wisconsin and Michigan. Subzero temperatures at midday extended into northern Iowa, the National Weather Service said. Sunday's noon reading at Devils Lake, N.D., was 20 below, with a wind chill of minus 38, the weather service said. On Saturday, the town warmed to a high of 13 below - with a wind chill of minus 42.