According to report, the naturalization application backlog has nearly doubled since 2015


A report from the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA) revealed that applications from legal permanent residents filing to be naturalized has escalated from 390,000 in 2015 to almost 730,000. At the same time, USCIS argues the number of naturalizations has stayed roughly consistent over these years. There appears to be no agreement between the report’s author, the federal government, and anti-immigrant advocacy groups on just what explains the explosion in unprocessed applications.

According to Diego Iniguez-Lopez, the author of the report and NPNA policy and communication associate, this is “either a consequence of bad, inefficient government…or malevolent vote suppression” meant to slow potential citizens from enjoying their full rights. He suggests that processing has slowed and denials have been more frequent and “arbitrary.” NPNA’s Executive Director Joshua Hoyt suggests there is no excuse, as oath ceremonies are fully funded by fees paid by applicants, not by the federal government. The government does, however, spend billions on new immigration enforcement programs, and has turned USCIS from a public service organization into a fraud detection task force.

USCIS considers these unfair accusations. In fact, they deny “backlog” is even an apt term. Spokesman Michael Bars cites the consistent naturalization numbers, and argues that recent applications get lumped in with older ones and make the numbers seem inflated. He also defends USCIS’s shift in focus to fraud and abuse detection and denaturalization as consistent with the agency’s goals.

The anti-immigration group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), however, is even more candid. Communications Director Dave Ray does not deny the backlog exists, but argues it is likely a matter of the United States “admitting too many immigrants.” They support any measure to increase vetting of applicants, and the resulting wait time is seen as reasonable. As Ray puts it, “Immigrants don’t have a right to citizenship.” The rate at which applications are processed matters less than weeding out fraudulent applicants. It should be noted that FAIR has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The NPNA is not waiting on the sidelines. They have circled the report to officials at the city, state, and federal levels. They have also filed a Freedom of Information Act request to inquire if certain groups are being targeted, such as Mexicans and Muslims.

For more information, please see: