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Congress Must Hold USCIS Accountable for Second Wall Obstructing U.S. Citizenship

05.23.2019

For Immediate Release
Contact: Karina Martínez at 858/752-1262
or karinam@mifamiliavota.org

Congress Must Hold USCIS Accountable for Second Wall Obstructing U.S. Citizenship

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) will meet with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director L. Francis Cissna’s.

Mi Familia Vota issued the following statement:

Mi Familia Vota urges members of the CHC to investigate USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna’s policies and practices that are intentionally preventing immigrants from naturalizing. In addition, USCIS must guarantee that naturalization fees are invested to reduce processing delays to the agency’s goal of six months and that no fee funds be diverted to enforcement.

“The massive backlog of unprocessed citizenship applications is keeping immigrants from benefitting from the rights of citizenship, including the right to vote. This administration has continuously attacked Latinos, immigrants, and voters, and is now using Cissna and USCIS to suppress our full integration and electoral participation ahead of the presidential elections,” said Cristian Avila, MFV civic engagement coordinator.

Processing applications used to take an average of five to six months across its offices nationally. Despite declining naturalization numbers, it is now taking an average of at least ten months and, in some cases, up to 30 months. According to data available from USCIS, as of December 2018, the number of pending citizenship applications at the agency was more than 731,000, double the number compared to 2015.

Close to nine million immigrants are eligible for citizenship nationwide. According to USCIS, half of those eligible became green card holders before the year 2000.

OTHER TROUBLING OBSTACLES TO CITIZENSHIP

Naturalization is costly, getting more expensive and is becoming an exclusive privilege of the wealthy. There is a pending regulation, that once implemented, eliminate means-tested benefits as a reason to qualify for fee waivers. This would impact an estimated 40 percent or more of applicants who, without the waiver, would not be able to afford citizenship.

The naturalization application and process is a growing, insurmountable burden. The form (N-400) is already 20 pages long with an additional 18 pages of instructions—and per another USCIS draft rule, is poised to become longer and require more documentation from applicants.

USCIS has also issued policy guidance that will make it more difficult for people with disabilities to seek accommodations and open them up to accusations of fraud.

The agency has dedicated an unprecedented amount of resources to de-naturalization, stripping Americans of citizenship, in some cases decades after they became citizens.

USCIS’ biennial fee study currently underway will likely result in massive fee increases, some of which may be diverted to enforcement.

Studies have long shown that individuals and the economy overall benefit when more immigrants become citizens. An individual’s earnings rise by up to 11 percent, leading to a potential $45 billion increase in cumulative earnings over ten years that will have ripple effects across the national economy.

Mi Familia Vota has been hosting citizenship workshops and assisting with naturalization forms in service to the Latino and immigrant community. MFV has also joined forces with the National Partnership for New Americans to naturalize “One Million by 2020” to support the Latino community’s full representation in the 2020 elections.

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Mi Familia Vota is a national civic engagement organization that unites Latino, immigrant, and allied communities to promote social and economic justice through citizenship workshops, voter registration, and voter participation. Mi Familia Vota has operations in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and Texas.