U.S. Mayors and NPNA Partners Urge USCIS to Reduce "Second Wall" of Citizenship Application Backlogs

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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 the agency reduce the backlog of over 753,000 pending citizenship applications and cut processing time down to six months

Some lawful permanent residents have been waiting for as long as 20 months for their citizenship applications to be processed. 

The National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA), which spearheaded the effort, recognizes that immigrants applying for citizenship have come to the country to improve their lives, have lived here and contributed to the 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.

"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 Immigrants Rights (CHIRLA).

Since January 2016, the backlog of citizenship applications 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 immigrants with pending applications than 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. 

The mayors' letter, originally drafted before the newest USCIS data showing increases to the backlogs, 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.

"Immigrants who become naturalized citizens are valued members of our neighborhoods and have made significant contributions to our city and out 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 effort to give the more than 700,000 applicants waiting to become United States citizens an answer on their future."

These growing backlogs disproportionately impact certain 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 has a backlog of 16,614 applications; and
  • The District of Columbia had a backlog of 16,564 applications.

Read the full text of the mayors' letter here

As USCIS moves away from its mission of serving a "nation of immigrants," moves to strip citizenship of naturalized citizens, expands the circumstances where it begins deportation proceedings against immigrants, and becomes more and more a critical part of the Trump administration's attacks against immigrants communities, NPNA, our partner organizations, and a growing coalition of mayors, cities, and members of Congress remain committed to tearing down the second wall and ensuring that immigrants are receiving the opportunity, fairness, and equal treatment that they deserve when they are applying for citizenship. 

Read NPNA's full release (along with an attached social media toolkit) here: https://view.s7.exacttarget.com/?qs=5a1b810bcfa43a27af978908e72c012d5778b366a0674c1b25282f985057ecb4e31baaa37210389bc4626795df5ecab9ccb282ddec66e88af8fb1f19a7fd675ac299405e83688772