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WASHINGTON – Ahead of a meeting between USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), CASA, CHIRLA, National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA) and UnidosUS urge Congress to launch an investigation into policies and practices causing citizenship applications to pile up at USCIS offices nationwide and which – most disturbingly – work to disproportionately exclude low-income and people of color from becoming citizens.

Director Cissna will meet with the CHC at 12 p.m. today, where he will face questions regarding the troubling trend occurring ahead of the 2020 elections.

“We applaud the CHC for calling this meeting,” said Susan Collins, NPNA Director of Policy and Advocacy. “As USCIS restricts access to citizenship, Cissna is fooling no one. Just like the White House immigration proposal shared last week and President Trump’s opposition to the American Dream and Promise Act, this administration wants to limit access to legal immigration and citizenship to those who are rich, privileged and look more like the President’s family. This will have dire consequences for the full integration of immigrants and refugees, our economy and democracy.”
“We applaud the CHC for requesting a GAO investigation of the USCIS backlogs, and encourage that it ask Director Cissna two key questions: Is he prepared to swear under oath and penalty of perjury that his decisions and actions to delay and impose other barriers to naturalization have not been influenced by political considerations? Why shouldn’t Congress impose processing deadlines on the agency through the appropriations process to get to reasonable processing times?” said Laura Vazquez, Senior Program Manager of Immigration Initiatives at UnidosUS.

NPNA and its allies welcome the Congressional Hispanic Caucus exercising oversight over USCIS and call on members of Congress to investigate Cissna’s discriminatory policies and practices that shut people out of citizenship, to make sure that naturalization fees are invested to reduce processing delays to less than 6 months and that NO fee funds be diverted to enforcement.

Civic organizations, such as NPNA that promote naturalization of eligible Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR), are deeply troubled by growing delays in USCIS adjudications.  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 20 and 30 months.

According to data available from USCIS, as of December 2018, the number of pending citizenship applications at the agency is more than 731,000 – double the number compared to 2015.

Some USCIS offices with the most extended processing times — Texas, Nevada, Georgia, Florida, Minnesota, to name a few – appear to be in states that have been or are likely to be “battlegrounds” in the 2020 election.

There are nearly nine million people eligible for citizenship in the United States, and most of them have been here and contributing for decades. According to USCIS, half of those eligibles became green card holders before the year 2000.

“USCIS has long been the department within DHS with no discernable political agenda to push.  This is no longer the case and now USCIS blatantly and shamelessly has set up a wall, not of brick or steel, but of senseless ideology and political motives to keep nearly one million aspiring citizens from reaching their goal.  Congress must ask Mr. Cissna for clear answers and request he put a stop to this nonsense. CHIRLA will continue urging those who qualify to become U.S. citizens now,” stated Angelica Salas, CHIRLA Executive Director.

“Instead of promoting U.S. citizenship, USCIS is building an invisible Second Wall that prevents those who are eligible from becoming citizens,” Gustavo Torres, Executive Director of CASA. “Unfortunately, this is consistent with the administration’s aggressive anti-immigrant agenda. The administration is using this agency as a backdoor way to restrict immigrants from becoming full-fledged members of our society, a move that could benefit the president in the 2020 elections.”

OTHER TROUBLING OBSTACLES TO CITIZENSHIPNaturalization 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. 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, May 23, 2019
FERNANDA DURAND (443) 396-3317

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