U.S. Ninth Circuit - The FindLaw 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Immigrant Rights Advocates Sue Over Citizenship Backlog

A recently filed case in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California seeks to enforce a Freedom of Information Act request made by immigration advocacy groups to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The request is aimed at discovering just what is going on with the massive backlog of N400 citizenship applications, which is continuing to grow, resulting in systemic consequences for individuals who should rightfully be granted citizenship.

Back Breaking Backlog

The current numbers aren't good. There's a backlog of over 750,000 applications. The N400 application process, which would normally only take USCIS six to seven months, on average, to complete, now takes twenty months. This means some individuals who would be granted citizenship as a matter of administrative course, could face deportation due to the delay.

Notably though, USCIS has expanded from 2012 to 2017. It added 38% more adjudication officers, opened three new offices, and made 10 existing one larger. Despite the increased staffing and infrastructure, the backlog seems to be the result of "extreme vetting" delaying the processing of individual applications.

Politically Motivated Bureaucracy?

Immigration advocates believe that the backlog is politically motivated. Apart from the highly contentious issue of immigration and immigration reform, it is believed that the extreme vetting procedure is intended to delay granting immigrants citizenship in order to impact immigrant voter turnout. Advocates are calling it "backhanded voter suppression" and "a second wall." Since immigrants gain the right to vote upon being granted citizenship, immigration advocates believe the delayed processing is politically motivated to suppress potential new Democratic voters.

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