WASHINGTON – The National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA) condemns another troubling Trump administration policy change that would create a presumption that individuals with disabilities who fail to submit extensive medical paperwork when applying for a waiver from the English and civics exams as part of the citizenship process are trying to defraud the government.
The measure is one more of a growing list of “second wall” barriers constructed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that affects the close to nine million immigrants who are eligible for naturalization, disparately impacting immigrants with disabilities in this case.
The policy, which USCIS opened for public comment last Friday, requires an applicant to submit with their citizenship application a certification made under penalty of perjury from a licensed medical professional. Under the new policy, applicants who do not submit their citizenship application concurrently with the waiver request will be suspected of fraud by USCIS adjudicators. Previously, applicants were able to submit their citizenship application and utilize the months between the submission of their application and their interview to gather the needed substantiating documents that they qualified for the waiver due to a disability.
“This policy will delay immigrants with disabilities and those who lack access to healthcare from applying, and, in a worst-case scenario, prevent them from applying entirely,” said Diego Iñiguez-López, policy and campaigns manager for NPNA. “It also imposes a presumption of fraud on applicants that has no basis in security or fraud prevention. This arbitrary and cruel change blocks the road to citizenship for immigrants with disabilities who form integral parts of our communities, families, and country.”
This policy was first announced in December 2018 and became effective in February 2019. USCIS originally opened a public comment period of 60 days in April 2019 and re-opened it for 30 days this past Friday. USCIS only sought public comment on the policy change after it had already gone into effect.
NPNA pledges to continue working with our communities through our NPNA Family Protection Network to naturalize immigrants, including those with disabilities, and to continue fighting against “second wall” barriers to citizenship. We encourage immigrants and refugees to determine if they are eligible for citizenship, and, if so, seek help and to apply as soon as possible.
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