For hundreds of thousands of immigrants who have applied for citizenship under the Trump administration, the wait time has gotten longer. As the Associated Press reported, the citizenship process, which used to take about six months, now takes as long as two years, raising concerns from immigrant rights advocates that the administration is deliberately taking steps to limit the number of new citizens who will be able to vote in the 2018 midterms and 2020 elections.
More than 700,000 people are currently waiting for their applications to be approved. According to the Associated Press, the average wait time is now around 10 months; in some parts of Texas, people have waited for more than two years.
This delay means that a large number of green card holders, who in previous years may have received their citizenship in time to vote in the November elections, will not be able to cast ballots. Advocates claim that the Trump administration is deliberately slowing down the naturalization process, with the goal, as Emily Gelbaum of the National Partnership for New Americans put it to Reveal, to “suppress the vote.”
In September of this year, immigrant rights advocates filed a lawsuit demanding records on the reasons for the delays. As they wrote in their complaint, the administrations’ “extreme vetting of naturalization applications and delays in the processing of these applications denies thousands of lawful permanent residents the opportunity to more fully participate in civic life and to vote in important upcoming elections.”
According to a spokesperson from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the delays are due to an increase in the number of applications, which have surged during the Trump administration, and are not part of a effort to limit the number of new citizens in advance of the midterm elections. There is “no truth to this claim,” USCIS spokesperson Marilu Cabrera told Reveal.
Looking ahead to the 2020 presidential election, many groups are beginning to encourage permanent residents to apply for citizenship this year if they plan on voting in 2020.
“Right now, we’re finding ourselves in this space, in places like Miami and New York, where processing times are 21 months,” Juliana Cabrales, the director of civic engagement at the NALEO Educational Fund told the Associated Press. “If you want to vote in 2020 you have to apply (to naturalize) now.”