More on those inaccessible archives slowing down naturalization cases

FEBRUARY 11, 2022


Washington (February 11, 2021) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Representatives Richard Neal (MA-01), Jim McGovern (MA-02), Lori Trahan (MA-03), Jake Auchincloss (MA-04), Katherine Clark (MA-05), Seth Moulton (MA-06), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Stephen Lynch (MA-08), and William Keating (MA-09) today wrote to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) concerning the growing backlog of pending Alien-file (A-file) requests at Federal Record Centers (FRCs) managed by NARA. This backlog of requests for hard-copy A-files — which contain all the immigration records relating to any non-naturalized individual— is significantly delaying the adjudication of pending naturalization cases. The Massachusetts delegation urged NARA to take all necessary steps to safely speed up the processing of these A-file requests so that naturalization proceedings are not unnecessarily delayed.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) stores almost 52 million paper A-files at three FRCs in Kansas City, Missouri. USCIS needs A-files to begin the process of adjudicating applications for naturalization, known as “N-400” cases. Prior to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the Kansas City-area FRCs provided USCIS with an average of 62,000 A-files per month, resulting in a zero backlog of A-file requests. But since the beginning of the pandemic, the Kansas City-area FRCs have been only partially open at reduced capacity; at some points, they have been completely shut down. As a result, these FRCs are now processing approximately only 11,000 A-files per month. As of January 2022, there was a backlog of almost 350,000 A-file requests.

“Our constituents have already been waiting many years for the opportunity to be eligible to naturalize,” wrote the Massachusetts lawmakers. “It is truly unfortunate — and unacceptable — that many are now forced to wait significantly longer simply based on where their A-file is located.”

A copy of the letter can be found HERE.