A recent Houston Chronicle article details how more than 80,000 prospective Texans are caught up in the immense backlog of U.S. citizenship applications. Cases that formerly took about six months to process now are taking a year and a half or longer to process. As of the end of June 2019, about 80,000 citizenship applications were pending in Texas, which is a considerable increase from the 50,000 pending applications that existed in June 2016.
Meanwhile, the Trump Administration continues to enact reforms that some advocates claim are making the citizenship process even more challenging for immigrants. For example, U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) have proposed significant increases in citizenship application fees, from $725 to $1,170 for most applicants. USCIS also has proposed eliminating waivers for immigrants who cannot afford to pay the filing fees. About one-third of all immigrants who are eligible for citizenship currently need the waivers. Nonetheless, USCIS maintains that the fee increase is necessary to offset the in-depth screenings that it requires during the naturalization process. USCIS also points out that it naturalized 833,000 new citizens this year, which is the highest number in 11 years.
Although the Trump Administration has made some efforts to increase staffing to process these applications, such as having USCIS conduct interviews on Saturdays as well as during weekdays, the measures still fall far short of substantially decreasing the backlog. Some advocates even claim that the backlog is a concerted effort aimed at silencing the number of minority voters in the 2020 election. Significant delays in the naturalization process make it more likely that these individuals will become citizens in time to register and vote.
Backlogs in citizenship applications have grown even more substantially in Texas as opposed to other areas of the country. For instance, earlier this year, when Texas legislators from both parties collaborated in sending a letter to USCIS, wait times ranged from 17 to 21.5 months in Houston, as opposed to 9.5 months in Los Angeles and 10.5 months in Queens, New York.
No matter the type of immigration issue you are facing, the skilled and knowledgeable immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland are here to assist you. We handle many different types of immigration cases every day and have the kind of strategic experience and skills that are necessary to reach the desired outcome. By calling our office as quickly as possible after your legal issue arises, we will have the best opportunity to resolve your immigration law case successfully.