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Court Says Immigrant Rights Groups Must Receive Documents Related to Backlogs and Wait Times

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA) welcomes a federal court’s decision ordering the Trump administration to release information related to the backlog and processing delays of citizenship applications, as part of the government’s response to a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request filed by NPNA and other groups.

“We applaud the court order for the Trump administration to bring to light what’s behind the citizenship backlog and processing delays,” said Diego Iñiguez-López, NPNA’s policy and campaigns manager. “The hundreds of thousands of immigrants who have applied deserve accountability, fairness, and transparency.”

Last week’s decision orders the federal government to begin releasing documents to groups that filed the FOIA request in August 2018, and based on a lack of response, filed a lawsuit in federal court in California on Citizenship Day, September 17, 2018. The groups include NPNA, the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, CASA, New York Immigration Coalition, OneAmerica, Michigan United, Mi Familia Vota, and UnidosUS. 

NPNA and the groups have repeatedly pointed to the ever-growing obstacles to citizenship as a “second wall” that makes it more difficult for low-income, working poor, disabled, and other immigrants to get through the naturalization process in time to register and vote in the Presidential election of 2020.

The groups want to get to the bottom of the backlog of more than 713,000 citizenship applications and processing delays which exceed 20 months in multiple U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offices throughout the nation. 

The groups seek information such as:

  • Whether there are political motivations behind the backlog, including directives from the White House to higher USCIS officials and whether the backlog is serving as a voter suppression tactic;
  • Whether USCIS is targeting citizenship applicants, through higher scrutiny in their application, based on race, religion, national origin, and/or residence in a battleground state;
  • The reasons for further scrutiny of applicants through Requests for Evidence;
  • Whether the Department of Homeland Security has diverted naturalization funds to enforcement functions; and
  • The reasons why USCIS is allocating resources towards denaturalizing citizens.

On Tuesday, Citizenship Day, NPNA and its member groups called on Congress to hold USCIS accountable for the backlog, processing delays, and other “second wall” barriers and to take legislative action to restore and expand access to citizenship.

The National Partnership for New Americans, is a national, multiethnic, multiracial partnership of 35 immigrants and refugee rights organizations across 37 states who work to promote citizenship and integration among our diverse immigrant and refugee communities for the benefit of all Americans.

For more information contact: Susana Flores (915) 525 2434 or Fernanda Durand