STUDIO CITY (CBSLA) — A coalition of immigrant rights groups is suing the federal government over what they claim is an intentional delay of the processing of naturalization applications, creating a backlog that has ballooned since President Barack Obama was in office.
The lawsuit against U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, filed by the National Partnership for New Americans, UnidosUS and OneAmerica, among others, was announced Monday, Citizenship Day.
USCIS has intentionally created the backlog that has grown to 753,000 applications, a 93 percent increase from late 2015, NPNA alleges. The groups say the agency failed to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request for documents on August 6 that sought to uncover alleged “racial, ethnic, and religious discrimination.”
Rep. Jimmy Gomez, whose District 34 encompasses L.A.’s Downtown, Boyle Heights and Westlake neighborhoods, stood with the groups at a Monday press conference.
#CitizenshipDay, @USCIS is facing UNPRECEDENTED citizenship application backlogs,” Gomez tweeted. “We must ensure @realDonaldTrump isn’t turning the agency into a ‘second wall’ to block immigrants from becoming citizens.”
The backlog includes 17,570 applications from Los Angeles county, and 16,614 from the city of L.A.
“The Trump administration’s policy of creating unnecessary obstacles to long-term resident immigrants naturalizing and becoming United States citizens is irrational, illegal and unconscionable,” said Peter Schey, president of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law. CHRCL and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles are serving as the groups’ legal counsel.
According to NPNA, it would take USCIS 25 years to get to the 2015 levels at the current pace, and that’s without accounting for new applications.
UnidosUS says on its website citizenship decisions took an average of six months under Obama. Under the Donald Trump administration’s so-called “second wall,” the average has more than tripled to 20 months, the group claims.
A spokesperson for USCIS said the agency is “on pace to complete at least 829,000 N-400 naturalization applications in Fiscal Year 2018, potentially exceeding a 5-year high in the number of applications processed.
“This is a testament to the diligence, training, and expertise of adjudicators and agency staff stationed at our offices around the country,” said Michael Bars.
Bars said 42,821 people became naturalized in the past week.
“If willing to honor our system of laws and adhere to its faithful execution, our government has made a promise to aspiring Americans that their dream can — and will — one day become a
reality,” said Bars.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)