(Washington, DC) — Nearly 50 U.S. mayors and county executives delivered a letter to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Lee Francis Cissna today demanding that his agency reduce the backlog of over 753,000 pending citizenship applications and demanding that it reduce the time it currently takes to process those applications down to six months. Some lawful permanent residents (“LPRs”) have been waiting as long as 20 monthsfor their citizenship applications to be processed.
“Immigrants who become naturalized citizens are valued members of our neighborhoods and have made significant contributions to our city and our country. However, a staggering backlog of naturalization applications has kept hundreds of thousands of others from realizing the same American dream,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Today, I join with fellow mayors from across the country to urge USCIS to focus their efforts to give the more than 700,000 applicants waiting to become United States citizens an answer on their future.”
The letter requests a comprehensive and detailed plan describing how USCIS will achieve backlog reduction and a commitment to share the plan with mayors across the country. The letter also asks for specifics on previous measures taken by the agency to reduce the backlog and an analysis of why those measures failed.
“Throughout the history of this nation, immigrants who applied for naturalization were received with open arms. Under the Trump Administration, the path to citizenship has become an inexplicably cumbersome process with delays that can only be explained as fitting of President Trump’s anti-immigrant, White nativist agenda. Tear down the ‘Second Wall’, President Trump, and reduce the egregious backlog keeping more than half a million people from becoming U.S. citizens,” stated Angelica Salas, NPNA Executive Committee Member and Executive Director for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA)
Since January 2016, the backlog has increased by over 93 percent. In just the last quarter of this fiscal year, the backlog increased by 23,952 applications, reaching the current backlog of 753,352 applications. In 2017, for the second year in a row, USCIS failed to naturalize more LPRs with pending applications that it actually naturalized. At the current rate, it would take USCIS over 25 years to get back down to the Obama administration’s backlog level of 380,639 applications in 2015, and that is assuming no new applications.
“These lawful permanent immigrants whose citizenship applications have been delayed are residents of our cities, integral parts of our communities and families, and essential to our local, state, and federal economies,” says Joshua Hoyt, Executive Director of National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA), whose group spearheaded this effort. “They have been in our country for many years and deserve to participate in the naturalization process that was envisioned by our nation’s founders, enshrined in the Constitution, and codified in federal law.”
These growing backlogs mainly impact cities and their USCIS field offices. At the end of March 2018:
- New York City had a backlog of 81,206 applications;
- Houston had a backlog of 42,341 applications;
- Dallas had a backlog of 38,094 applications;
- San Francisco had a backlog of 27,481 applications;
- Chicago had a backlog of 27,238 applications;
- Newark had a backlog of 26,146 applications;
- Atlanta had a backlog of 21,006 applications;
- Baltimore had a backlog of 20,485 applications;
- Seattle had a backlog of 18,707 applications;
- Miami had a backlog of 17,955 applications;
- Los Angeles County had a backlog of 17,570 applications;
- Philadelphia had a backlog of 17,336 applications;
- St. Paul had a backlog of 16,762 applications;
- Los Angeles City had a backlog of 16,614 applications; and
- The District of Columbia had a backlog of 16,564 applications.
“USCIS must be more accountable to the public that it serves and the values that it is supposed to promote,” says Hoyt. “Immigrants and eligible LPRs contribute so much to our communities, culture, and economy, USCIS must take aggressive action to end the backlog and allow them the opportunity to join the nation as citizens.”
Read the full text of the letter: click here