The Asian American Justice Center (AAJC) and its affiliates — the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) of Los Angeles, the Asian Law Caucus (ALC) of San Francisco and the Asian American Institute (AAI) of Chicago — celebrated Citizenship Day Sept. 17, originally a day to mark the ratification of the U.S. Constitution and give individuals a chance to take pride in their citizenship.
This year, Citizenship Day has special significance as thousands of immigrants across the country are trying to naturalize and earn the right to vote. Earning this right would allow them to participate in the country’s momentous November election.
“Since 9/11, the government has systematically delayed thousands of naturalization applications beyond the length of time permitted by law,” said Sin Yen Ling, staff attorney at ALC. “While the government has taken recent measures to expedite these applications, there are 95,000 applications pending as of mid-August. The government must act quickly to ensure that these applications be adjudicated, given the critical elections in six weeks.”
In the past year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also imposed new and increased fees on citizenship applicants. DHS created a new test for applicants that would go into effect for new applicants this October. Advocates have argued that the new exam could be more rigorous for new immigrants and thus pose as a barrier to those seeking citizenship.
“While the government has taken some steps to improve the naturalization backlog, the new barriers to citizenship for Asian American immigrants have placed blockades in the way of full immigrant integration,” said Tuyet G. Duong, senior staff attorney at AAJC. “Asian American newcomers want to be full participants in our society.” ♦