A group of immigrants are suing the U.S. government over delays in processing their citizenship applications. The 13 plaintiffs filed a suit against the federal government on Wednesday for what they call unreasonable delays after submitting their naturalization applications in spring 2020.
The suit, filed by the American Immigration Council on behalf of the immigrants, names U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as well as the National Archives and Records Administration, which operates underground storage facilities housing immigration paperwork. These mile-long caves beneath Kansas City largely shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The closures meant that thousands of U.S. immigration applications were left languishing underground. Without those papers detailing an applicant’s immigration history, USCIS is unable to approve citizenship applications, leaving scores of immigrants stuck in limbo.
In March, the National Archives fully reopened its underground storage facilities, according to the Wall Street Journal, and there are now 87,500 pending requests for immigration papers, down from 350,000 in January.
Yet USCIS still isn’t prioritizing citizenship applications over other immigration requests, which could mean thousands of would-be citizens won’t be able to vote in the upcoming midterm elections.
“We’re concerned that if they’re not proactive and don’t focus on naturalization applications, they have a risk of harm that no one else does,” Leslie Dellon, staff attorney at the American Immigration Council, told the Wall Street Journal.