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USCIS Hit with Lawsuit for Systematic Delay of Citizenship Applications

On Monday, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), along with nine other immigrant rights advocacy groups, filed a lawsuit against US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) over a massive backlog of citizenship applications.

As of this writing, USCIS faces a tremendous backlog of over 730,000 pending naturalization applications, which, according to California State Representative Judy Chu, represents an 87 percent increase since 2015.

And according to a letter signed by more than 50 Congressional members delivered to USCIS Director Lee Francis Cissna, processing times for citizenship applications have also increased, running for an average of 11 months compared to the previous six months.

Identifying the Cause of the Backlog

In the suit, the immigration rights groups claim that USCIS has been intentionally and systematically delaying hundreds of thousands of applications for naturalization, citing a failure to produce the documentary evidence to sufficiently explain the unprecedented backlog of applications.

The complainants, which include the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA), requested access to said documents under the Freedom of Information Act in August this year. They intend to review these records to identify which part of the agency’s internal operations may be impeding the process of handling citizenship applications, specifically, policies on budgeting and staffing that may be responsible for the longer processing times.

Voter Suppression

A number of immigration attorneys have expressed concerns that USCIS is systematically delaying naturalization applications, subjecting them to extreme vetting procedures and requiring additional documents often unrelated to the naturalization process. Some have said this is an attempt by the Trump administration to suppress votes from a growing immigrant block before a critical midterm election in November.

Suspicions arose after an NPNA report showed that the backlog of citizenship applications in the second quarter increased despite the 25 percent decrease in applications since 2017. The report also asserts that it would take at least 25 years for the backlog to revert to the level during Obama administration.

Worst-Performing States

The report also found that certain states had unusual spikes in denials of citizenship applications in the previous quarter; these include Alabama, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Utah. From October 1, 2017 to December 31, 2017, the backlog in citizenship applications also grew in:

  • Colorado
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

As for the states with the greatest increases in pending citizenship applications, the report points to Utah, which had an increase of 53 percent, and Texas, which saw an increase of 50 percent.

Still, the NPNA is encouraging eligible immigrants to apply for citizenship through naturalization despite these newfound obstacles under the Trump administration.

If you, or a loved one, are experiencing a delay in your citizenship application, you can discuss your legal options with immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle of the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today at (512) 215-5225 to learn more about how we can help you.

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