NPNA AND PARTNERS FILE FOIA WITH U.S. CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICE FOR REASONS BEHIND SKYROCKETING NATURALIZATION BACKLOG
(Photo from Maryland naturalization workshop led by NPNA member, CASA)
(Washington, DC) -- Today, the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA) along with UnidosUS, the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CHRCL), CASA, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), OneAmerica, Mi Familia Vota, 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.
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 attacks against immigrants. All of these actions are part of the Second Wall Campaign, which came out of the Naturalize NOW 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.
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For more information on the Second Wall Campaign or how to support these efforts, contact Diego Iñiguez Lopez, NPNA Policy, and Communications Associate, at firstname.lastname@example.org