NATIONWIDE — About 300,000 legal immigrants — including about 36,000 from Florida — weren’t able to become United States citizens in time to vote in this election, according to Boundless, an immigration watchdog organization.
A stricter vetting process and the coronavirus pandemic resulted in longer wait times, Boundless indicated.
What You Need To Know
- About 100,000 legal immigrants nationwide could not vote
- Stricter vetting process, COVID-19 lengthened wait times, Boundless says
- Immigration Services naturalized 834,000 new citizens in 2019, it says
- The naturalization backlog is more than 620,000, USCIS says
“The women and men of USCIS proudly naturalize thousands of potential new voters on a daily basis, whether it is an election year or not,” Dan Hetlage, a U.S. Customs and Immigration Services spokesperson, said in a statement. ‘In 2019, USCIS naturalized 834,000 new citizens, which was the highest amount of naturalizations in 11 years.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, USCIS's innovative workforce developed alternate formats for shorter naturalization ceremonies that incorporate social distancing, including curbside and drive-up ceremonies that allow applicants to stay in their cars as they take the Oath of Allegiance."
Within 10 weeks of reopening offices following the COVID-19-related shutdown, they were able to naturalize 110,000 people whose naturalization ceremonies were postponed because of the pandemic, and USCIS is conducting naturalization interviews according to CDC guidelines, Hetlage said.
The naturalization backlog is more than 620,000 and counting as of November, USCIS said.
For almost two years, Milton Flores and Ericka Tovar, who live in Orange County and moved to the United States from Colombia, spent their free time studying English and U.S. history so they could become American citizens. They finally were able to become naturalized citizens this past summer and were able to vote.
“We’ve been trying to become U.S. citizens since the last election four years ago,” Tovar said.
Flores said he feels blessed to be able to become a citizen in time to vote. This election was his motivation to become a citizen, he said.
“We saw immigration policies constantly changing and being a legal immigrant was no longer a guarantee you’ll become a citizen,” Flores said.
“It’s sad. I think the government is just making it tougher to become a citizen.”
Pew Research Data shows a record number of naturalized citizens, 10 percent, are eligible to vote this election.