Over Half a Million Immigrant Voters Potentially Disenfranchised
Critical Report from National Partnership for New Americans
NPNA report reveals that USCIS backlogs are ballooning, creating Disenfranchisement Danger Zones, potentially leaving hundreds of thousands of immigrants voiceless this November. Read the full report here: http://partnershipfornewamericans.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/NPNA-Report-USCIS-Backlogs-Create-Disenfranchisement-Danger-Zones-Sept-2016-FINAL-1.pdf
CHICAGO - 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 overall increase in citizenship applications received has been significant--and, in many ways, was driven by organizations like those within the NPNA family and our partners. Unfortunately, USCIS's backlogs have grown over the same period, too. 524,014 applications were pending as of the third quarter, and the extent of that backlog state-by-state is extremely troubling. Motivated to naturalize in order to vote this November, many potential citizens may be disenfranchised if USCIS does not swiftly process the backlog.
NPNA released a report today with data and analysis on every state and field office. In particular, we focus 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.
These backlogs were avoidable. Naturalization rates are known to be sensitive to price and politics. This year, we face a divisive Presidential election, races for every House seat and 35 Senate seats, and an impending naturalization fee increase. USCIS did not prepare accordingly, and potential immigrant voters will pay the price. USCIS will fail at its mission if it does not address the huge and ballooning citizenship backlogs. The agency will disenfranchise potential citizens who are eager to participate in our democracy.
"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."
" 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."
"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."
· Join NPNA in demanding that USCIS Director Leon Rodriguez take swift and significant action to address these backlogs and serve those who are eligible to become citizens this year. Sign the petition here: http://reformimmigrationforamerica.org/campaigns/new-citizens-deserve-vote/