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.
2 still missing after sugar plant blast
Search crews recovered another body Sunday from a sugar refinery devastated by a massive explosion, raising the number of confirmed deaths to six, the state's top elected fire official said. Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John Oxendine said crews removed the body from the debris of the Imperial Sugar refinery shortly before ending search operations at sunset. Two more workers remain missing in the smoldering remnants of the plant that exploded last week. Officials have searched most of the plant but not a part of the refinery complex that was still burning and where the buildings were dangerously unstable.
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. Twelve small structures, including at least one business and an unknown number of homes and sheds, were damaged by a blaze near the South Carolina coast. 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
Windy, bitterly cold weather spread from the northern Plains to the Northeast on Sunday, with blinding snow canceling church services in parts of Michigan and causing a 68-vehicle pileup in Pennsylvania. A woman died in the pileup when her car became wedged underneath a tractor-trailer. About 35 people were injured. 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.