Citizenship Delayed: Civil Rights and Voting Rights Implications of the Backlog in Citizenship and Naturalization Applications

Colorado State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
Date of Publication: 
September, 2019
Source Organization: 

This report from the Colorado State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights examines the large backlog of immigration applications at the Denver Field Office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. The Denver Office’s backlog, while among the largest in the nation, is consistent with an overall national backlog, and so the study addresses both local and national issues. The commission consulted immigration advocates, attorneys, academics, and current officials and held an open session with public comment. While making no findings of intention to discriminate or cause disparate outcomes, this study concludes that policies and practices that have increased scrutiny of applications, insufficient response to predictable changes in the submission of applications, inefficiency within the agency, and inadequate resources and funding have all contributed to the backlog. The report also concludes that that the backlog is having important implications for voting rights, civil rights, and the administration of justice. Processing delays suppress the vote by unreasonably delaying citizenship status for otherwise eligible voters, violate the Administrative Procedure Act, and limit employment opportunities for work-authorized immigrants. The study makes suggestions for how applicants might obtain relief through the justice system. Finally, it makes several recommendations for action at various levels of government, including streamlining the adjudication process, working toward better prediction models for application submissions, providing better transparency, increasing Congressional oversight of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s operations, and appropriating temporary funding to eliminate the current backlog. (Karen D. Caplan, Ph.D., Rutgers University -- Newark)

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Colorado State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. (2019). Citizenship delayed: Civil rights and voting rights implications of the backlog in citizenship and naturalization applications. Retrieved from