Latino Victory Fund Joins NPNA, MFV, SEIU, UFCW and UNITE HERE in Calling for USCIS to Resolve Naturalization Backlog & Allow New Citizens to Vote

Washington DC – According to United States Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS) data published in mid-September, 928,713 individuals have applied to become American citizens since this time last year. The data from the third quarter of Fiscal Year 2016 show a 32.1 percent spike in citizenship applications (Form N-400 Naturalization) over the same quarter of FY 2015, and a 24.8 percent spike in applications, year to date.

The significant increase in citizenship applications is a result of the work by NPNA, Mi Familia Vota, SEIU, the United Food and Commercial Workers, Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Unite HERE, Latino Victory Foundation and many others, who coordinated a vigorous, nationwide effort to drive a nationwide spike in naturalizations—to one million—by June 2016.

Unfortunately, during the same period of time USCIS’s backlogs have grown as well, with 524,014 applications pending as of the third quarter. The extent of that backlog state-by-state is extremely troubling. That is why we are calling on USCIS to act swiftly and process the backlog. Otherwise, over half a million potential citizens may be disenfranchised and not able to vote this November.

The National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA) released a report today with data and analysis on every state and field office. In particular, NPNA focuses on  “Disenfranchisement Danger Zones” in which the naturalization backlogs are large, growing rapidly, or both.  15 states account for 441,111 pending cases, or 84.2 percent of the overall backlog.

Nevada, widely understood to be a battleground state for this year’s election, has the nation’s worst backlog growth. Nevada saw a 53.8 percent spike in applications received but an 89.4 percent backlog growth.

Florida, another key state in this year’s election, has both huge backlogs and rapid backlog growth. In Florida, 66,113 cases are pending and the backlog has grown 59.9 percent over last year.

“We’re calling upon USCIS for a swift response to rectify this troubling revelation,” said Cesar J. Blanco, Latino Victory Fund interim director. “With so many barriers already in place keeping hard-working Americans from voting, we shouldn’t make it harder for eager individuals to get to the ballot box by getting naturalized in time. It would be an extreme affront to our democracy and everything this country stands for should we choose to leave over half a million people voiceless this November.”

“If non-profit organizations scaled up leveraging volunteers and free space, aspiring citizens coughed up $680, prepped for background checks, English and civics tests, then USCIS can do its part to process them expeditiously,” said  Maria Rodriguez, Executive Director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC) and NPNA Board member. “Not doing so amounts to suppression of the immigrant vote by denying the franchise they have earned.”

“Becoming a citizen is one of the most important moments in a person’s life,” said Geoconda Arguello-Kline, Secretary-Treasurer for the Culinary Union. “This year, hundreds of thousands of people made the decision to take that step. It’s a shame that USCIS delays will prevent applicants from voting this November despite working so hard to get their paperwork in on time.”

“For over a year we mobilized our people who are eligible to become citizens. Nevada saw a 54 percent spike in applications. Everyone we supported through the process was motivated to naturalize in order to vote this November,” said Karla Rodriguez, Citizenship Organizer at the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN). “USCIS must avoid blocking these voters by quickly supporting local field offices that have severe backlogs, like ours.”

“Our deepest concern is not simply this year’s backlogs, which are inexcusable; it is that they were allowed to grow at the most critical time in our democratic process,” said Tara Raghuveer, Deputy Director of NPNA , “Under-resourced services and mismanaged systems at USCIS do not merely prolong ineffectiveness-they corrode the foundation of American democracy.”


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