Urgency to Address “Second Wall” of Barriers Deemed Critical for New Americans Wanting Citizenship in Time to Vote in 2020.
BOULDER, CO – The day after the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA)launched the One Million Citizens by 2020 campaign to mobilize one million eligible lawful permanent residents (LPRs) to apply for citizenship this year, NPNA, Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC) and the Denver Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs testified about Trump’s “Second Wall” that prevents aspiring Americans from exercising their full civil rights.
The Colorado State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) held a public briefing at the University of Colorado Law School today to examine the backlog in citizenship and naturalization applications. The panelists shared their observations about the backlog strangling citizenship for aspiring Americans, its civil rights consequences, and called on the Advisory Committee to take action and to raise these issues with USCCR.
“Millions of LPRs across the United States want to become citizens. Their economic futures improve as do their community’s,” said Jamie C. Torres, Director of the Office of Immigrant & Refugee Affairs. “Denver has partnered with our regional U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office often to hold moving and motivational citizenship ceremonies. We want to see their office and our communities succeed. We are willing partners in that work. We also want to ensure an honest, consistent, and deliberate process awaits applicants who take the bold and long-planned step to become citizens.”
“We remain concerned that longer USCIS wait-times for LPRs means more people are exposed to possible deportation and that they cannot be fully represented in our democracy,” said Nicole Melaku, Director of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition .“CIRC finds it troubling that the Trump administration has stifled thousands of LPR’s opportunity and timeline to move forward with the process, which until complete means they cannot vote, run for office, apply for certain jobs, and hinders economic prosperity for Coloradans who are ready to take an important step to more fully integrate into our state and our democracy.”
Without aggressive corrective action, the backlogs of citizenship applications—now more than 750,000 applications, double the backlog of 2015—could prevent the naturalization of eligible lawful permanent residents (LPRs) or “green card” holders in time to participate in the 2020 elections.
“As a nation, we have a history of racism where the federal government has used citizenship as a means of excluding people of color from the country and prevented them from having equal rights,” said Diego Iñiguez-Lopez, Policy Associate for NPNA. “We do not want to repeat such history–we demand that USCIS reduce its backlog and drop its plans to advance citizenship policies that would discriminate against the elderly, disabled, working poor and racial, ethnic, and religious minorities.”
According to an NPNA report released yesterday, USCIS is creating bureaucratic barriers that could further strangle access to citizenship and voting for immigrants, especially for the most vulnerable.