Friday, September 30, 2016

Legal immigrant citizenship backlog could affect presidential outcome in battleground states

Francisca Fiero, a legal immigrant
from Mexico living in Nevada,
has been waiting since January
to receive notification of
her U.S. citizenship.
(NYT photo by Isaac Brekken)
A backlog in naturalizing the growing number of legal immigrants applying to be U.S citizens means that many won't be eligible to vote in November, Julia Preston reports for The New York Times. Last year 940,000 legal immigrants applied to be U.S. citizens, a 23 percent increase over the number of applications in 2014. "As of June 30, more than 520,000 applications were waiting to be examined, a pileup that increased steadily since last year."

A push to get immigrants to register to vote in battleground states could prove futile if many are not naturalized by their state's voter registration deadline. Three battleground states—Nevada, Florida and Colorado—have all seen significant increases in legal immigrants over the past year, Preston reports. Nevada has seen a 53 percent increase, Florida a 40 percent increase and Colorado a 30 percent increase.

Since immigrants are more likely to vote Democratic, the backlog could hurt Hillary Clinton, Preston writes. Polls in Nevada, Florida and Colorado all show that Latinos favor her by huge margins over Donald Trump. "In Florida, for example, more than 66,000 potential new voters stuck in the backlog could be enough to affect the outcome of a race that polls show is a virtual tie."

Some accuse the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services of purposely taking its time processing applicants, Preston writes. Tara Raghuveer, deputy director of the National Partnership for New Americans, a coalition of 37 groups that held citizenship workshops around the country, told Preston, “The agency has developed an acute case of the slows, and it could not be a more critical moment.” Raghuveersaid said the "groups scrambled to file applications before May 1, after the immigration agency originally advised them that the process would take four to six months."

"This year for the first time the naturalization drive also had high-profile backing from the White House, which sponsored ad campaigns, gave $10 million to community groups and made fixes to make it easier to apply," Preston writes. "But officials said the White House was not monitoring the results to confirm that the immigration agency was completing naturalizations in a timely way."

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