February 04, 2008

Citizenship Application Delays and Super Tuesday?

Many intending citizens will lose the chance to vote on Super Tuesday and the November elections because of extended delays in processing of their applications for citizenship. According to the USCIS, a surge in applications last summer, including citizenship applications, has increased the average decision time for citizenship applications from 7 months to about 18 months. That means nearly one million people who sought to gain citizenship and the right to vote last year will not become citizens in time to vote in these important elections.

The USCIS is primarily funded by the fees paid by immigrants to get benefits like green cards and citizenship. Despite a 67% increase in these application fees last year, the USCIS contends it does not have the resources to process many of these applications any faster than 18 months. Its current two-year response plan to handle the “surge” in citizenship and green card applications expects to reduce processing times to six months by September 2010.

About 70% of these new applicants for citizenship are Hispanic. Their vote or lack thereof can have a decided impact in this critical election year. Some 57 percent of Hispanic registered voters call themselves Democrats or say they lean toward the Democratic Party, while 23 percent align with the Republican Party, according to a recent Pew Hispanic Center survey. The October-November 2007 survey of about 2,000 Latinos had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points, in general, and 4 percentage points for registered voters surveyed. Hispanic votes can have a large impact in the “Super Tuesday” states. According to NALEO, Latinos constitute 14.2 % of the electorate in Arizona, 17.3 % in California, 5.3 % in Illinois, 8.1 % in New Jersey, 33.8 % in New Mexico, and 8.7 % in New York. And many polls show that a candidate’s position on immigration is important to Latinos.

The Dallas Morning News reports that both parties are courting the Latino vote and catering their immigration views accordingly. Click below for these stories:
Democrats on Immigration

Republicans on Immigration

By Ann Massey Badmus