Lawsuit claims potential voters stuck in naturalization limbo

Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Lawsuit claims potential voters stuck in naturalization limbo
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Advocates for immigrants and voting rights a federal lawsuit today demanding information from the U-S Citizenship and Immigration Service.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Advocates for immigrants and voting rights filed a federal lawsuit Monday demanding information from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.

The groups believe that the Trump administration is engaged in deliberate foot-dragging to potentially slow new citizens from registering as Democrats.

According to federal figures, 6.6 million people followed the process and became eligible to vote in the decade before 2012.

Plaintiffs said the flow has since hit a roadblock.

"They have at least doubled the amount of time it takes to become a citizen," said Peter Schey, president of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law.

According to the suit, the numbers of applicants who have paid their fees, undergone the required background checks and supplied the necessary documents have nearly doubled nationwide since the end of the Obama administration.

"It was about 383,000 and now it is 753,000 and we noticed this in the first quarter of the Trump administration in 2017," said Angelica Salas, who heads the immigrant advocacy group CHIRLA.

The numbers are disputed by the USCIS which says applications have increased 25 percent in the last two years, but that the annual totals have not slowed.

"The USCIS is on pace to complete at least 829,000 N-400 naturalization applications in 2018, potentially exceeding a five-year high in the number of applications processed," USCIS spokesman Michael Bars said.

The lawsuit underlines an earlier Freedom of Information Act request. The plaintiffs demand records, data, and any information about possible changes in training for the officers who interview the applicants. It is alleged that some interviewers have departed from protocol and engaged in extreme vetting.

"Clearly this slowdown of the citizenship process is politically motivated," said Rep. Judy Chu, Democratic congresswoman from the West San Gabriel Valley.

Advocates fear that eligible residents will become so wary of unknown hazards in the naturalization process that they won't apply.