LOS ANGELES – More than 700,000 immigrants are waiting for applications to become US citizens, a process that used to take about six months but extends to more than two years in some places under the Trump administration.
The number of immigrants aspiring to become US citizens increased in 2016, increasing by 27% over the previous year, when Trump made the fight against immigration a central theme of his campaign.
At first, the government followed the requests, but the waiting has increased.
Arrears are not new to the US immigration system. It often takes years to get asylum or to be deported. But naturalization – the last step in becoming a citizen, obtaining a US passport and getting the right to vote – has not been subject to such delays in recent years.
Now, the average waiting time for requests is greater than 10 months. According to official estimates, it takes up to 22 months in Atlanta and 26 months in some parts of Texas.
Trump tweeted on Thursday that migrants from Central America heading north in a caravan should return home and apply for US citizenship if they wish. "Go back to your country and if you want, ask for citizenship like millions of other people do!" He said as thousands of people continued their journey through Mexico.
However, immigrants must generally be legal permanent residents of the United States in order to apply for citizenship. Getting a green card can take years, if not more, if a person qualifies for it.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services have stated that longer waiting times are due to more requests, not slower processing. The agency processed 850,000 cases in 2017, up 8% from the previous year.
Despite an "unprecedented record-breaking" number of applications, the agency is operating more efficiently and performing better and "outperforming," spokesman Michael Bars said in a statement.
To become a US citizen, immigrants must hold a green card for at least three years, be morally sound and pass English and civic education tests.
Applications for citizenship generally increase before the filing fee increases and during the presidential election years, as immigrants are excited about the opportunity to vote and pressure groups are conducting an extensive public awareness campaign to increase voter turnout. number of eligible voters.
Preventing potential citizens from voting could have an effect on the mid-term elections, but could also lead to more family members and friends at the polls.
"Delays in naturalization have a huge cost in preventing some people from voting, but" have a huge impact on the motivation of others, "said Jeremy Robbins, executive director of New American Economy, a bipartisan group in favor of socializing. ;immigration.