A backlog in naturalization applications at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services could prevent hundreds of thousands of soon-to-be citizens from voting in the 2020 presidential election, reports The Washington Post.
The delays are due to underfunding, the COVID-19 pandemic and policy changes by the Trump administration.
The pandemic shut down many USCIS operations, including naturalization ceremonies, for nearly three months. Last month, nearly 70% of the agency's workforce received furlough notices, and, without additional funding, those layoffs will go into effect at the end of the month.
"I feel very disappointed because I was so looking forward to becoming a citizen for this election for November; I feel like my voice is not going to count," said Rutilia Ornelas, a Mexican immigrant who lives in Wisconsin and applied for naturalization 20 years after becoming a permanent resident.
More than 700,000 citizenship applications were still pending as of March 31, according to USCIS data. Just 156,849 naturalizations have been completed since mid-March.
The process to become a naturalized U.S. citizen takes about 10 months, but that time has nearly doubled since Donald Trump became president.
"The backlog right now under the Trump administration is extraordinary," said Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute.
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