Our firm has reported on the USCIS backlog crisis repeatedly over the last few years, but now the crisis has reached new heights. Years of policy changes that have made it harder to apply for asylum, visas, TPS, and citizenship have resulted in a stockpile of unprocessed applications that will take years to resolve. There are more than 300,000 citizenship applications alone that have not been processed.
As a result, there are 300,000 would-be voters who will be unable to participate in the 2020 election due to bureaucratic mismanagement.
The Cause of the Backlog Crisis
How does a backlog grow so quickly in such a short period of time? The issue was created by a combination of the following factors: increased in-person interview requirements, cuts to USCIS staff, and increased vetting of applications that once were handled routinely and quickly. COVID-19 slowed down the process even more, as citizenship interviews and swearing-in ceremonies ground to a halt.
As a result, the wait time for a naturalization application has reached an average of nine months, with some cases taking up to three years. In 2016, the average wait was just 5 months.
To work through the backlog, the agency managed to resolve 110,000 applications delayed by the pandemic, even utilizing drive-thru citizenship ceremonies. Still, the bulk of the backlog remains, and solving the pandemic backlog does nothing for the people who have been waiting years to become citizens.
Fastest-Growing Voting Bloc in the Country
Statistics show that newly naturalized citizens are the fastest growing segment of voters in the country. As of February, immigrant citizens made up 10% of the voting public, which is the highest it has ever been. The majority of these new voters live in just five states: California, New York, Florida, Texas, and New Jersey.
Our law firm calls for an immediate solution to the USCIS backlog that is fair and just for the immigrants who have waited years for their applications to be processed. They deserve to exercise the rights and benefits they have as American citizens, and poor bureaucracy should not bar them from participation in our civic life.