In court motion, NY Latinos seek Sept. 22 citizenship deadline
As part of a lawsuit on behalf of legal, Latino immigrants in New York City, attorneys have filed a motion seeking a Sept. 22 deadline for the processing of citizenship applications that are more than six months old. Inordinate delays will otherwise prevent the immigrants from being able to vote in the November elections, say attorneys from the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has been under pressure to address the pileup of paperwork that came in just before the July 30 fee increase. The agency announced yesterday that it was on course to complete naturalization applications in 13-15 months, down from earlier projections of 16-18 months. USCIS says it is hiring almost 3,000 new employees and quadrupling the funding for overtime.
USCIS and the FBI also announced an effort to deal with one of the typical holdups, the FBI “name checks.” (Name checks are required for various applications including those seeking citizenship, green cards and asylum.) USCIS is asking the FBI to prioritize 29,800 naturalization cases submitted to the FBI before May 2006 in which applicant was already interviewed, according to a press release.
Here is a press release regarding the New York lawsuit over citizenship:
Latinos have asked a federal judge to force the government to grant citizenship to immigrants in time for them to register to vote in this yearâ€™s elections.
The Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF) filed a motion in federal court today, seeking to force the government to naturalize legal permanent residents who have been waiting over six months for their applications to be processed at the New York district office of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. The motion sets Sept. 22, 2008 as a deadline for USCIS to grant these applicants citizenship.
PRLDEF was joined by co-counsels Weil, Gotschal and Manges, and the New York Legal Assistance Group.
As many as one hundred thousand immigrants could attain citizenship if the motion is granted. Approximately 1.4 million legal permanent residents across the country applied for citizenship in 2007 alone, according to USCIS. 14 percent of those applicants are served by the New York USCIS district office.
While it used to take an average of eight months for USCIS to process applications, a nationwide backlog has pushed the waiting time back to an average of 14 to 16 months (according to the governmentâ€™s own estimates), forcing millions of people to live in a state of limbo. The backlog has denied immigrants the rights, privileges and advantages that full United States citizens enjoy, including the most fundamental of American rights: the right to vote.
â€œDuring this time of widespread anti-Latino, anti-immigrant sentiment, Latinos across the country want the right to have their voices heard, but many will be denied the opportunity to participate in this yearâ€™s election.â€ said Cesar Perales, PRLDEFâ€™s President and General Counsel. â€œThey have been fingerprinted, passed background checks, and paid their application fees. They have passed their English test, proven their knowledge of our nationâ€™s history and still their citizenship is being withheld. Despite Congressâ€™ instruction that citizenship applications be processed within six months, hundreds of thousands of people are still awaiting a decision.â€
Omar Farfan, a decorated veteran of the U.S. Navy, has spent three years waiting for a decision on his naturalization application. In that time he has been unable to apply for the federal government jobs he desires. Now a widower, Farfan needs the better career opportunities and economic stability that come with citizenship.
â€œI need this for my family, for my kids,â€ he says. â€œThey depend so much on me. Iâ€™m the person that brings the food to the table.â€
PRLDEF is acting with the support of national Latino organizations, including the National Council of La Raza, the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, in order to ensure that Farfan and the thousands of other law-abiding, hard-working residents like him can fully participate in the upcoming elections and in American society as a whole.
â€œLegal permanent residents care deeply about the same issues as all Americans â€“ issues such as education, economic opportunities and health care â€“ and they want to shape the policies that affect their families and communities,â€ said NALEO Executive Director Arturo Vargas.
Michael Santâ€™Ambrogio, one of the NYLAG attorneys on the case, said, â€œThe government has been sitting on our clientsâ€™ applications for years. We have no choice but to seek relief from the Court.â€