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Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

MUSLIM COMMUNITY REPORT: Public Advocate Letitia James called on the federal government to provide emergency support for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which is facing a massive backlog in naturalization cases. With voter registration deadlines just around the corner, close to half a million immigrants — almost 60,000 in the New York City area — are at risk of not becoming naturalized citizens in time to vote in the 2016 election.

“We can’t allow bureaucratic red tape to stifle the dreams of half a million potential citizens,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “Hundreds of thousands of legal immigrants are being denied the opportunity to become citizens simply because USCIS does not have enough resources. With a historic election around the corner, this delay will prevent new voters from registering in time. It is critically important that USCIS be given the necessary support to grant citizenship to those who deserve it in time to vote this fall.”

In the last year almost 940,000 legal immigrants applied to become citizens, a 23 percent surge over the previous year. As of June 30, 2016, more than 520,000 applications were waiting to be examined, including nearly 60,000 in the New York City area.This backlog is due to a spike in the number of citizenship applicants and a USCIS office that is not adequately equipped to deal with such an increase in applications. After paying hefty fees and taking citizenship tests, many of these applicants have waited over a year, compared to a process that typically takes four to six months.

With the deadline to register for Election Day 2016 just around the corner, it is imperative that the federal government provide emergency funds to USCIS to process the maximum amount of applications before the October registration deadlines for many states, including the October 14th deadline in New York State.

“I became a citizen last year. I’ve never felt more empowered than the day I took the oath of citizenship,” said Mayra Aldas-Deckert, community engagement coordinator at New York Immigration Coalition. “My first thought was ‘I can vote. I can vote for my parents and my sister who cannot vote, I can vote for my family, I can vote for my community’. Sadly, that will not be the feeling for thousands of immigrants that are still waiting to be part of this crucial election year. An election year that could change the direction of our immigration system.”

“The Asian American Federation applauds the Public Advocate’s leadership in bringing attention to this problematic delay in processing citizenship applications,” said Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director, Asian American Federation. “To have more than half a million applications in limbo has real repercussions for immigrants who have waited up to a year to receive their right to vote and gain access to the other benefits of citizenship. In the face of a nearly 25% increase in citizenship applications, the federal government must commit more resources to the USCIS to clear the backlog of applications as much as possible before the voter registration deadline in October.”

“Now in 2016, it is more important than ever for the immigrant community’s participation, their vote, their voice to play a role in our nation’s political future,” said James Hong, Interim Executive Director, MinKwon Center for Community Action. “This is particularly salient for Asian Americans, who are the most likely of all race groups to be naturalized citizens.The MinKwon Center is also very concerned about the impact of these delays as some DACA recipients are losing their administrative relief “status” as we speak. Dozens waiting for their DACA renewals to be approved by the USCIS are seeing their expiration date come and go, literally losing the jobs they gained as a results of DACA, and becoming technically undocumented again.”

“One of the cornerstones of our democracy is making our voices heard at the ballot box,” said Julie Shapiro, Executive Director of The Door. “The Door stands with our colleagues in the immigrant rights community to demand that the federal government provide the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services sufficient emergency funds to process the backlog of naturalization applications. It will be important this is done before the upcoming October voter registration deadlines in many states. We need to make sure that all voices are heard in this upcoming November election.”

“Common Cause New York advocates for effective and efficient government, and that includes the processing of over half a million applications for immigrants to become American citizens,” said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause New York. “Thousands of applicants living in New York City will be unable to become registered voters for this year’s elections if the federal government does not step up efforts to process the backlog of citizenship requests, unfairly denying them one of the basic rights of citizenship. Common Cause New York is pleased to stand with Public Advocate Tish James in calling on the federal government to accelerate the process and respect those who have put in their citizenship requests.”

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