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New Citizen Applications Won't Be Processed by Election Deadline

AP Photo/Gregory Bull

As many as 7,000 potential citizens in Nevada could be left without papers or a voting card by Election Day due to a spike in applications for citizenship, and a backlog in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Many people have rushed to become U.S. citizens in time to vote in the November 8 election. Nationwide, 900,000 people have applied for citizenship. In Nevada, the state saw a 54 percent spike in citizenship applications just in the third quarter of this year.

Yet, there are not going to be 54 percent more eligible voters.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is so overwhelmed with applications that it can’t possibly get all of them processed by October 18 – which is the deadline to register to vote.

In fact, according to Tara Raghuveer, Deputy Director of National Partnerships for New Americans, the backlog in Nevada is at 89 percent. This means that USCIS is behind even its non-election year pace.

That could leave as many as 7,000 potential citizens without papers or a voting card.

In an official statement, USCIS said: "We are monitoring the situation and managing resources to address disparities in processing times."

There are 524,014 applications pending as of June 30th. Raghuveer says that many of those go back to as long as January, which is 9 months ago - far longer than the USCIS' claim that they are on pace with their usual 5-month processing time.

On background, a source with USCIS said that the agency has moved staff from offices in states that are not behind to offices experiencing increased workloads and has authorized overtime for many offices.

Raghuveer points out that most of the states that are experiencing a backlog are in swing states with large immigrant populations. Florida, for instance, has a backlog of almost 65,000 people. But in those states the percent of the backlog and the percent of the higher application rates track. Only in Nevada are is the backlog higher than the increase in applicants.

Tara Raghuveer, Deputy Director of National Partnerships for New Americans

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(EDITOR'S NOTE: Carrie Kaufman no longer works for KNPR News. She left in April 2018)