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Immigration Crisis: Naturalization Backlog Leaves Californians In Limbo

August 8, 2008

San Francisco, CA - The path to becoming a U.S. citizen is growing longer and longer, leaving many of California's legal immigrants stuck in the process. It's a part of the immigration crisis that's often overlooked, according to a new report that finds the backlog can hurt families and careers and can jeopardize a citizen’s right to vote.

The report found that many California applicants are having to wait 10 to 14 months, but for San Francisco resident Maria Costelloe, the wait has been even longer. The Ireland native applied for citizenship in 2004.

"I found that, whenever I would ask them how my application was doing, I'd get a standard letter back, or I'd get very little information when I would phone."

Costelloe did recently get approval and will be sworn in next week as a new citizen

Alfredo DeAvila, senior program associate for the Applied Research Center, says the delays mean many will lose their opportunity to vote.

"The government will surely not process them quickly enough for people to register and vote in this coming election in November, even though citizenship is about participating within a democratic society."

Immigration officials say they have done a lot to decrease the backlog by increasing staff and improving the process. Part of the delay is attributed to more-stringent FBI security checks; there was also a rush of applicants trying to beat a large rise in fees.

The report, "Out of Focus: The Hidden Crisis of the Latest Backlogs in Naturalization Processing," may be found at
www.immigrationforum.org.

Lori Abbott/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - CA