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Court Delays Prevented Thousands of Potential New Citizens from Voting

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citzenship cakeGuest Blogger Fred Tsao is the Policy Director for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
| Cross-posted at icirr.org.

As the Washington Post reported yesterday, citizenship delays likely prohibited thousands of immigrants from voting in this historic election. According to the Post:

In one of the nation’s busiest courts, a judge’s delay caused nearly 2,000 people to not receive the oath in time to register for November’s general election, USCIS ombudsman Michael Dougherty said in a 13-page report released yesterday.

The finding adds a new twist to long-standing complaints that applicants for citizenship face long waits, poor service and different treatment depending on which immigration office handles their paperwork.

Progress Illinois had this to say:

He found that in one of four cities where judges have exclusive authority to call the hearings, court officials reported that they weren’t given enough time to conduct the oaths in the days preceding the election. (Dougherty wouldn’t say which city, but Chicago is one of the four.) The result? Nearly 2,000 new citizens were denied the right to vote.

Immigrants already have to struggle with enough obstacles in the citizenship process, including high fees, long waits, and tougher tests. Now it turns out they have to deal with federal courts that won’t swear them in on a timely basis.

It’s particularly outrageous that thousands of people–who took all the appropriate steps to become citizens so they could vote in this historic election–were denied access to this cornerstone of our democracy. It’s time for the courts to make naturalization a real priority.