CourtSide - The FindLaw Breaking Legal News Blog

Immigrant Rights Advocates Sue Over Citizenship Backlog

According to a new lawsuit filed in California, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has been ignoring Freedom of Information Act requests regarding significant delays in processing citizenship applications. And according to the immigrant rights groups that filed the suit, the delay is part of an effort to deny "thousands of lawful permanent residents the opportunity to more fully participate in civic life and to vote in important upcoming elections."

The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, National Partnership for New Americans, and Mi Familia Vota, among others, claim "extreme vetting of naturalization applications and delays in the processing of [citizenship] applications has created a backlog of over 753,000 applications," and they are seeking government documents justifying the government's action. You can see their lawsuit below:

Documents and Delays

At a press conference this week, Peter Schey of the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law called the delays "irrational, illegal and unconscionable," and claimed they are part of a concerted effort to make sure "immigrants, particularly those in battleground states, do not have the opportunity to participate fully in civic life and vote in upcoming elections."

The lawsuit alleges that the plaintiff organizations received no response in the 30 days since requesting public records regarding "the federal Government's costs, budget allocations for, policies and practices relating to the adjudication of and delays in processing N-400 naturalization applications." The groups "exhausted the applicable administrative remedies with respect to their FOIA request," according to court filings, calling the government's failure to respond or make a determination the request "arbitrary and capricious."

Applications for Americans

Courthouse News Service reports that the average processing period for applications has climbed to 20 months, from a previous average of just 6 or 7 months. That delay has created a 93 percent increase in the backlog of applications since 2015, including 138,000 applications in California and 17,750 in Los Angeles alone.

Here is the full lawsuit:

Citizenship Backlog Complaint by FindLaw on Scribd