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Wait-Time for Citizenship in Illinois Triples

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January 21, 2008

Chicago, IL – The clock is ticking for thousands of immigrants in Illinois who applied for U.S. citizenship last year. The application process usually takes six months, but U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that processing will take up to 18 months, due to a backlog of millions of applications. That means thousands in the state who thought they would be voting in the presidential election probably won't be.

Fred Tsao with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights believes the surge in applications should have been expected. Thousands filed last year to beat a citizenship fee increase. He adds that others applied because they want to have a voice in the presidential elections.

"They're committed to this country; they want to become citizens; they want to participate, and they're not going to be able to in the most fundamental way. One could suspect this was intentional, that it was engineered to be that way. I personally don't feel that this was intentional, but it is stunning incompetence."

USCIS is pledging to hire more workers this year, as well as ask hundreds of retired employees to return to the job to try to clear the backlog. Tsao testified before Congress last week about the problem.

ICIRR has helped 30,000 in Illinois apply for citizenship over the past three years.

Deborah Smith/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - IL