In a recent article published by The CT Mirror, Débora Cabral, a Connecticut resident who is on her way to becoming a naturalized citizen highlighted her satisfaction with being able to participate in the 2020 elections. “I feel that I am an American. My husband is an American, my children are Americans, my grandchildren are Americans,” Cabral said. “I deserve citizenship because I want to be able to vote in the next election”
Ms. Cabral met her husband, Manuel Rocha over a decade ago in the Azores region of Portugal. After living in the United States for several years, they both opened a local cafe in Monroe. The process of becoming a naturalized citizen is complex and potentially lengthy, but Ms. Cabral’s desire to enjoy the same liberties and freedoms as other Americans has motivated her to become a naturalized citizen. Our democratic system of government is based on a diverse electorate with different cultures and ideologies, and Ms. Cabral is just a small fraction of those who are eligible to vote but face immigration delays.
The Trump administration’s relentless attacks on immigrants have left thousands of eligible applicants unable to apply. Under the veil of the Covid-19 pandemic, President Trump has
effectively shuttered the legal immigration process. Extended application times and delays will leave thousands of Connecticut immigrants who would otherwise be eligible to vote in the November 2020 elections unable to. Such actions by the administration are anti-American and are unconstitutional.
Backlogs in the legal immigration process have plagued the state of Connecticut. As of March 31st, nearly 7,600 Connecticut immigrants have seen firsthand the continued delays while their cases have been pending in the Hartford offices of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services branch. According to USCIS, nearly 700,000 immigrants nationwide have pending cases with USCIS. Based on a Boundless report, an estimated 300,000 people are at risk of not being able to vote due to such backlogs. Boundless, which has advocated and supported immigrant communities in their efforts to obtain green cards and citizenship, has actively vocalized and pursued such injustices. From those at risk, nearly 4,800 of which reside in Connecticut.
To become a naturalized American citizen, there are several requirements you have to meet, such as completing tests measuring your knowledge of Civics and English.
Below are other criteria a naturalization application needs to meet, including:
- Being at least 18 years of age when filing for Form N-400, known as the Application for
- Be a resident of the United States with a green card for 5 years with a clean legal record.
- Provide evidence of maintaining a physical presence in the United States for 30 months.
- Demonstrate you have lived for at least 3 months in the state or the United States
Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) district where you are applying.
- Show a written and verbal command of English, as well as the ability to read English.
- Show knowledge of American history and the U.S. government.
- Demonstrate yourself as someone who has good moral character.
When the pandemic hit in mid-March and government restrictions were enacted, USCIS field offices were closed and those on the cusp of citizenship were unable to proceed. In June, the Hartford USCIS field offices resumed oath ceremonies, clearing the way for those who were unable to proceed without an interview. Thus far, USCIS has been unable to conduct interviews virtually resulting in further backlogs and delays.
During the Republican National convention, the president used the White House as the backdrop for a naturalization ceremony. This came at the same time the president planned on shuttering the USCIS work force. Nearly 13,000 USCIS officials who were slated for furlough found some hope as USCIS reversed its plan. If the furlough took effect, the application process for green cards, work permits, citizenship, and other immigration benefits would have been severely impacted.
The president’s use of a naturalization ceremony to gain support in immigrant communities counters his efforts in the past several months to effectively end all forms of legal immigration. His efforts to limit immigration into the United States have extended into restricting the number of refugees being accepted, asylum applications, and family-based immigration claims. After pushback from Congress on the furlough plan, USCIS Director for Policy, Joseph Edlow reversed himself and said: “he can avoid them because the USCIS’s financial situation had improved somewhat through the increase in application fees that fund the agency.” Although the pandemic had a major impact on applications for citizenship, the President’s continuous efforts in the years prior are at the pinnacle of today’s disruptions. On average, application waiting times have increased by nearly three months, leading to a longer, drawn-out process for most applicants. As some still face interview delays Ms. Cabral’s scheduled interview comes on September 15th, and if all goes well, she will be able to take her and become a United States citizen.
The best way to assert your rights as an undocumented immigrant in Connecticut is by retaining the help of an attorney with a thorough understanding of immigration law at the Law Offices of James A. Welcome. We know your rights and can provide you with effective legal representation after you have not been treated with the protection you deserve. We know what is on the line and can help you through the process of asserting your constitutional rights. Reach out today.