Immigration Law

Groups to USCIS: Why the Naturalization Backlog?

National Partnership for New Americans, Aug. 6, 2018 - "Today, the National Partnership for New Americans(NPNA) along with UnidosUS, the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CHRCL), CASACoalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles(CHIRLA), OneAmericaMi Familia VotaNew York Immigration Coalition(NYIC), and Michigan United filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to uncover the reasons behind the enormous backlog of citizenship applications and the delay in processing them.  Some lawful permanent residents (“LPRs”) have been waiting as long as 20 months for their citizenship applications to be processed.

“The adjudication of applications for citizenship should be timely, fair, and equitable, and we intend to hold USCIS fully accountable for its performance. We demand an explanation for the unacceptable growth in citizenship backlogs and processing times. Taxpayers paying $725 for a citizenship application have every right to expect that their government provides timely and effective service,” said Janet Murguía, President, and CEO of UnidosUS.
 
Since January 2016, the backlog has increased by over 93 percent. In just the last quarter of this fiscal year, the backlog increased by 23,952 applications, reaching the current backlog of 753,352 applications. In 2017, for the second year in a row, USCIS failed to naturalize more LPRs with pending applications that it actually naturalized. At the current rate, it would take USCIS over 25 years to get back down to the Obama administration’s backlog level of 380,639 applications in 2015, and that assumes no new applications.
 
“Essentially USCIS has helped President Trump create a ‘Second Wall’ with this backlog and it’s preventing lawful eligible immigrants from becoming naturalized,” said Josh Hoyt, National Partnership for New Americans Executive Director. “The agency must be held accountable for these interminable application processing delays and those impacted deserve to know why it is happening and what is being done about it.”
 
CHRCL will serve as a legal representation for NPNA and its partner organizations who are all part of the Second Wall Campaign to help eliminate obstacles to the U.S. naturalization process. Should the federal agency unlawfully delay or refuse to respond to the FOIA, the organizations fully intend to pursue legal action.
 
"The Trump administration's policy of creating unnecessary obstacles to immigrants becoming US citizens is illegal and unconscionable. It is a not very well camouflaged form of voter suppression. The internal documents we are now seeking under the Freedom of Information Act will shed light on this illegal covert program and allow us to assess how litigation may be used to end the administration's voter suppression program."  said Peter Schey, Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CHRCL)
 
The FOIA request comes on the heels of a letter sent last week by U.S. Mayors to USCIS Director Frank Cissna demanding that he address the naturalization backlog and reduce wait times for applicants. The request also comes one month after over 50 Representatives sent a letter to USCIS scrutinizing the backlog and NPNA released a report analyzing USCIS data and condemning the backlog as part of the Trump administration’s agenda against immigrants. All of these actions are part of the Second Wall Campaign, an initiative aimed at bringing down President Trump’s “Second Wall” that is blocking the path to citizenship, the right to vote, full civic and community participation and stronger protections for immigrant families. Launched in July 2018, the campaign has moved quickly to involve the nation’s elected officials and community-based organizations in pushing USCIS to end the backlog, reduce the wait time for citizenship applications to six months, and to encourage naturalization efforts.
 
About National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA)
 
The National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA) is a national multiethnic, multiracial partnership. We represent the collective power and resources of the country’s 37 largest regional immigrant and refugee rights organizations in 31 states. Our members provide large-scale services—from DACA renewal application processing to voter registration to health care enrollment—for their communities, and they combine service delivery with sophisticated organizing tactics to advance local and state policy. We exist to leverage their collective power and expertise for a national strategy. We believe America’s success is rooted in our ongoing commitment to welcoming and integrating newcomers into the fabric of our nation, and to upholding equality and opportunity as fundamental American values."