The winding path to American citizenship has gotten a lot more complicated for many immigrants waiting to become naturalized. They can apply after maintaining permanent residency for five years. But while the final step of obtaining citizenship previously took roughly six months to complete, The Washington Post reports that under the current administration, it could take up to two years.
Once Trump won the presidential election in 2016, many immigrants living in the United States said they felt pressured to apply for citizenship because of the former reality star’s stance on people from what he called “shithole countries.”
As a result, there was a 27 percent surge in citizenship applications in 2016, which created a bottleneck and major backlogs. Of the more than 700,000 people waiting for their applications to be processed, most will have to wait 10 months for a resolution. And, according to The Post, it will take as many as “22 months in Atlanta and as long as 26 months in parts of Texas.”
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services stresses that the public can’t blame slow processing for these delays, telling The Post that the surge in applications is the cause. Agency spokesperson Michael Bars said that despite “a record and unprecedented” spike in applications, the agency is “outperforming itself.” The Post reports that the agency processed 850,000 citizenship applications in 2017, which is an 8 percent increase from the year before.
With the midterm elections coming up on November 6, these processing delays mean that hundreds of thousands of potential citizens won’t be able to vote. Jeremy Robbins, executive director of New American Economy, told The Post, “The naturalization delays have a huge cost in stopping some people from voting, but they have a huge impact in motivating others.”