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NPNA responds forcefully to President Trump’s “Second Wall” of Bureaucratic Barriers and Backlogs to Citizenship by Launching a “One Million Citizens by 2020” Campaign to Educate and Support New Americans Seeking Citizenship 

(Recording of the press conference from 2/21/19 below)

WASHINGTON –  Today, the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA)and its members and allies across the United States condemned the “Second Wall” of barriers to citizenship advanced by the Trump Administration that, without action, could prevent the naturalization of eligible lawful permanent residents (LPRs) or “green card” holders in time to participate in the 2020 elections. To ensure that aspiring Americans get into the citizenship line in time to exercise their right to vote, NPNA and its partners are launching the One Million Citizens in 2020 campaign to mobilize–through outreach, education and legal support–one million eligible LPRs to apply for citizenship this year.

“The Trump Administration has failed to use the additional funding it has received from increased naturalization fees to improve processing and reduce the immense backlogs that have continued to grow,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, Chair of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship of the House Judiciary Committee. “As Chair of the Immigration Subcommittee, I intend to hold hearings on this issue and get to the bottom of what is happening.”

“Citizenship is a powerful tool for American workers,” said President D. Taylor of UNITE HERE. “When our workers become citizens they no longer have to fear reprisal when exercising their rights to join a union or to demand better wages and benefits in the workplace. This improves conditions for all workers–immigrant and native born alike. Equal access to citizenship makes a stronger United States of America for all of us.”

Processing delays are now so long in some locations that the system is placing some eligible LPRs at risk of not getting through the citizenship process in time to vote in the 2020 elections. The worst backlogs are in: Atlanta, GA; Dallas, TX; Fort Myers, FL; Houston, TX;  Memphis, TN; Miami, FL; Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN; Montgomery, AL; Newark, NJ; New Orleans, LA; New York City, NY; Oakland Park, FL; Philadelphia, PA; Queens, NY; and San Antonio, TX.

In addition, according to an NPNA report released today, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is creating additional barriers to citizenship through proposals that would change the citizenship fee waiver to exclude the working poor; revise the N-400 form to apply for citizenship that further burdens applicants and slows adjudications; bar people based on income and who access certain government programs from permanent residency; shutting out those with disabilities from citizenship; and efforts by USCIS to strip citizenship away from naturalized citizens.

“Message to Donald Trump–we see you. This is another of your attacks on immigrants, trying to choke off the naturalization process that 20 million Americans–including my own parents–have used to become full American citizens,” said Steve Choi, Co-Chair of NPNA Executive Board and Executive Director of New York Immigration Coalition. “It is unconscionable that New York residents need to wait 2 years to become citizens, but as NPNA we will fight back with our One Million Citizens for 2020 initiative to make sure that all eligible Americans can assume the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.”

“To the nine million legal immigrants eligible to naturalize we have a simple message,” said Charles Kamasaki, Senior Cabinet Advisor of UnidosUS. “If you care about the future of your family, your community, and your country, the best way for your voice to be heard is through your vote. And if you want to have any chance to vote in the 2020 elections, APPLY NOW!”

“No matter what barriers this administration throws at us, our communities will persevere and make sure our voices are heard,” said Nicole Melaku, Director of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. “Community-based organizations stand ready to assist all who are eligible to sign up for citizenship. We urge our family, friends and loved ones who want to become citizens in time to vote in the 2020 elections to seek out the help available to naturalize as soon as possible. Let’s mobilize 1 million green card holders across this country and get this done.”

NPNA launched the Campaign to Tear Down the Second Wall in July 2018 to demand USCIS reduce the backlogs and processing delays to an average of six months. Since its launch, over 50 members of Congress and more than 50 Mayors and the Seattle City Council have echoed our call to end the strangling of U.S. citizenship. NPNA, represented by the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law and Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, and joined by UnidosUS, CASA, Michigan United, Mi Familia Vota, New York Immigration Coalition, and OneAmerica, filed a Freedom of Information Act request to shine a light on the backlog and bring accountability to USCIS. Because the agency did not respond timely, a lawsuit was filed in federal court last September, which is currently pending.