Politics

Mayors Want Citizenship Application Process Shortened

SHUTTERSTOCK/Pamela Au

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Neetu Chandak Education and Politics Reporter

Mayors and county executives across the U.S. signed a letter Monday asking the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) to shorten the citizenship application processing time due to alleged backlog “increase by over 87 percent,” but data and officials say otherwise.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel wrote the letter to USCIS Director Lee Francis Cissna and 50 mayors and county executives across America signed it Monday.

They were asking for the processing time of citizenship applications to be reduced to six months for the 729,400 lawful permanent residents (LPRs), who sometimes had to wait as long as 20 months for their citizenship applications to be processed, according to the letter.

“In just the last year, the backlog increased from 636,164 applications to the current backlog of 729,400 applications, despite a 25 percent decrease in applications submitted during the same time period,” the letter said.

Another report said Utah experienced the highest citizenship application backlog in the country.

“Utah has experienced the largest increase in application backlog in the country, which is almost 70 percent from last years’ figures,” KUTV reported Monday.

But data and officials tell a different story.

A government official told The Daily Caller News Foundation the data depicting the number of pending applications was being equated to the number of cases in the backlog, which exaggerated the delay experienced by naturalization applicants. A pending application consists of every application for naturalization filed including those submitted in recent days.

The current naturalization backlog is just under 400,000 cases. USCIS experienced an increase of approximately 200,000 filings for naturalization per year in fiscal years 2016 and 2017. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: New USCIS Office Investigation Thousands Who Got US Citizenship Through Identity Fraud)

The processing time for a naturalization application generally takes close to 10 months and can vary due to geography and the number of people seeking naturalization. But since the Trump administration passed Executive Order 13780, which suspended illegal aliens from U.S. entry for 90 days from seven Middle Eastern countries in Jan. 2017, the number of people interviewed for other immigration benefits has expanded to prevent criminal activity, affecting processing time for certain cases.

The number of immigrants becoming citizens still remains between 700,000 to 750,000 with over 716,000 people becoming naturalized citizens in fiscal year 2017, according to the USCIS website. Fiscal year 2018 is on track to see the most naturalization applications completions since 2008.

“The truth is that the number of individuals naturalized annually has kept pace and virtually unchanged despite the 35% increase in N-400 applications,” USCIS spokesman Michael Bars told TheDCNF. “USCIS is committed to adjudicating all petitions, applications and requests fairly, efficiently, and effectively on a case-by-case basis to determine if they meet all standards required under applicable law, policies, and regulations. We reject the false and inaccurate claims of those fundamentally opposed to this effort.”

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