¡HICA!, ACIJ, and NPNA Encourage Eligible Immigrants to Apply for Citizenship and Take a Stand Against Second Wall

The Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (¡HICA!) and the Alabama Coalition of Immigrant Justice (ACIJ) call on eligible lawful permanent residents (LPRs) to apply for citizenship and demand that the Trump Administration undo the bureaucratic bottleneck that is keeping hundreds of thousands of eligible LPRs from becoming citizens and voting in the 2020 presidential elections. ¡HICA!, ACIJ, and NPNA partners’ goal is to reach one million eligible lawful permanent residents by 2020. 

“We are ready and eager to help eligible immigrants to apply for citizenship as soon as possible. The backlog of citizenship applications and the processing delays prevent our beloved community members from naturalizing and becoming fully civically engaged. This process with outside legal services costs in excess of $1,000, but to encourage eligible immigrants to apply we are reducing our fees to $100.” said Isabel Rubio, Executive Director of ¡HICA!. 

“Despite the attacks on citizenship, we will not back down. The Trump administration should reverse course and provide the necessary resources to make sure that all eligible immigrants are naturalized efficiently and effectively,” said Sarai Portillo, Executive Director of ACIJ. 

There are over 750,000 citizenship applications before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an agency that is part of the Department of Homeland Security. This number has almost doubled since 2015, with the majority occurring under the current administration. Delays in processing these applications average over a year nationwide, with some regions exceeding 30 months.  

In Alabama, the processing delays for applications is 8-12 months. LPRs are at risk of not getting through the citizenship process in time to vote in the 2020 elections. In Alabama, eligible applicants must submit their naturalization applications by September 2019 in order to be processed in time to vote in 2020. According to the New American Economy, Alabama in 2014 had 56,126 immigrants eligible for naturalization. Federal, state, and local government should invest in screening efforts to assist in naturalization efforts. 

We have recently visited the USCIS office in Montgomery and they have assured us that they are doing their best to process applications and reduce processing delays. We intend to hold them accountable. 

Additional barriers to citizenship add urgency to the importance of applying for naturalization now. These include a proposed change to the citizenship fee waiver that would build a wall around citizenship based on wealth and class; the proposed changes to the N-400 form to apply for naturalization that would make it more burdensome for applicants, the legal community, and USCIS adjudicators themselves; new policy guidance making it more difficult for LPRs with disabilities to apply; and efforts by USCIS to strip citizenship away from naturalized citizens.  

As the year progresses, the barriers and wait time to become a citizen will only get worse. ¡HICA! and ACIJ call on all eligible residents to apply for naturalization as soon as they are eligible to begin the application process. 

Carlos E. Alemán, Ph.D.  
Deputy Director, ¡HICA!