For immigrants seeking to become U.S citizens, wait times across the country continue to become longer and longer.
Although there has been a backlog of applications for citizenship for many years, it has increased substantially since Donald Trump became president. In fact, immigrant advocates are referring to the backlog as the Trump administration's "second wall."
Samuel Bianco works for the International Institute of the Bay Area, an organization that assists immigrants in need of legal services. Bianco teaches a free citizenship class in the evening and says that passing the citizenship test and preparing for the interview are no longer the hardest part of becoming a U.S. citizen. According to him, getting an appointment for these things has become the primary obstacle for numerous immigrants throughout the country.
Speaking about the increased wait times, Bianco said, “Before the 2016 election generally, applications would take four, five, six months to process. And now they're taking ten months to a year.”
Cities with large immigrant communities have seen the longest wait times. For example, it can take up to 16 months in Washington D.C. and as long as 22 months in Atlanta. In New York City, it takes 21 months.
Diego Iniguez-Lopez, a spokesman for the National Partnership for New Americans said, “This is, in the best situation, a form of ineffective bad government. In the worst case scenario, it's a form of voter suppression from an agency that's becoming more and more part of the Trump administration's agenda against immigrants."
Iniguez-Lopez also wrote a report about the backlog titled “Tearing Down the Second Wall."
The most recent government data shows that there are over 750,000 citizenship applications that are still pending. The number of pending applications has nearly doubled the number in 2014 and is up by 20% since Trump was sworn into the White House.
However, officials in the Trump administration say there is nothing unusual about the slow process for becoming a citizen and claim it is simply the result of more people trying to apply.
Other factors have contributed to the slow process as well, such as the application form, which doubled in size to 21 pages during the Obama administration. The Trump administration also enacted policies that make the interview process even more rigorous and lengthy.
According to Bianco, “Students are coming back and they're talking about being asked about every single bit of information no matter how minute it may be in that application. And so yes, we feel the citizenship interview is tightening.”
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