Mi Familia Vota partners with NPNA and others to FOIA U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service for reason behind skyrocketing naturalization backlog

08.06.2018

For Immediate Release
August 6, 2018
Contact: Karina Martínez | karinam@mifamiliavota.org | 858/752-1262

Mi Familia Vota partners with NPNA and others to FOIA U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service for reason behind skyrocketing naturalization backlog

Washington, DC – Today, Mi Familia Vota along with National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA), UnidosUS, the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CHRCL), CASA, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), OneAmerica, New 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.

Ben Monterroso, executive director of Mi Familia Vota, noted, “753,000 people are anticipating our government to grant them United States citizenship; the exponential delay in processing these applications lacks justification. It is time for the Trump administration to take action on applications and create a climate that is welcoming to new citizens. Becoming a citizen comes with new rights, such as the right to vote, that are being denied as long as they are being delayed. It is especially concerning that ahead of several election cycles, the administration has not set forth a plan to overcome and prevent citizenship backlogs. It is urgent that these prospective citizens be fully integrated into our democracy.”

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, NPNA 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 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.”  says 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.

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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.