An undisclosed number of citizenship applications are currently backlogged, preventing many residents who are in the final stages of their citizenship from registering to vote in the upcoming November elections, The Washington Post reported.
In July, The Arizona Republic reported that more than 300,000 immigrants were at risk of not being able to vote in the presidential election due to delays caused by Trump administration policy changes and the coronavirus pandemic.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services did not say how many applications are backlogged at this point but told The Post there were hundreds of thousands of citizenship applications pending.
Alex Beric, a 44-year-old immigrant from England, told the Arizona Republic that he applied for naturalization in May 2019 and was told by USCIS that his naturalization interview was originally scheduled for April 2020, but was later told it would have to be rescheduled due to the pandemic.
Beric said he was still waiting for the interview to be rescheduled in July.
“It would be fairly disappointing,” Beric told the Republic. “My wife and I have made our life here. We have no intention to return to England, so it would be nice to take part in local and federal elections.”
The latest data publicly available on the number of pending citizenship applications is from March 31 and shows that more than 700,000 applications were pending, according to USCIS.
The Post reported that since mid-March, the agency completed 156,849 naturalizations, but people sent in additional applications during that time, as well.
“The backlog right now under the Trump administration is extraordinary,” Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst at the nonpartisan think tank Migration Policy Institute, told MM.
Laura Muñoz also applied to get her citizenship so she could vote this November. A 26-year-old from Colombia who moved to Miami when she was 12, Muñoz told MM she’s nervous because she hasn’t heard back about her next steps in the process and the voter registration deadline in Florida is next month.
“I was really eager to cast my very first ballot this important electoral year, where there’s so much happening from local to national,” Muñoz told MM. “After you call this your country for so many years, you’re still not a part of its democracy. I speak for many people when I say that feels really hurtful.”
USCIS has not replied to Business Insider’s request for comment at the time of publication but a spokesperson told MM that the agency is on pace to naturalize 600,000 new citizens by the end of September.
That number is smaller than last year when 834,000 new citizens were naturalized.
In March, USCIS announced it was suspending all in-person services at its field offices, asylum offices, and Application Support Centers to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Naturalization oath ceremonies were also suspended but later resumed on June 4. These ceremonies are the last step in the citizenship process after an individual passes their interview.
The average time for processing naturalization applications in 2020 was 8.8 months.
Despite the backlog and struggle, many are facing to gain their citizenship in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump highlighted a naturalization ceremony during the Republican National Convention last week.
Five immigrants took their oath but at least one said they were never told they would be featured in the RNC. Some people who were hoping to also receive their citizenship this year told the Post the RNC ceremony was “bittersweet.”
“I was like, ‘These people really deserve it. They are thriving. Hopefully, life is so much greater for them moving forward,'” Umaima Abbasi, a 23-year-old Pakistani immigrant whose application is still pending, told the Post. “But I was also thinking … ‘How many other people are in my situation?’ Probably plenty, too many to even think of. … It was really heartbreaking for me to think about that.”