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Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms joined nearly 50 U.S. mayors and executives who on Monday delivered a letter to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Frank Cissna demanding that the agency reduce the backlog of over 753,000 citizenship applications and reduce the time it currently takes to process citizenship applications down to six months, on behalf of a quarter of a million immigrants with pending applications who reside in their cities. At the end of March 2018, Atlanta had a backlog of 21,006 citizenship applications with some lawful permanent residents (“LPRs”) waiting as long as 20 months for their applications to be processed.

“It is contradictory to our American values to tell immigrants to trust and abide by the citizenship process while slow-walking that very process,” said Mayor Bottoms. “The very fabric of our communities has been fashioned by immigrants and their cultural and economic contributions. If we are to find our way back to truly being the land of opportunity, USCIS must take bold and swift action to end the backlog.”

In June, Mayor Bottoms signed an Executive Order that prohibits the City jail from accepting any new ICE detainees and called on the Trump Administration to enact humane and comprehensive measures to fix our broken immigration system. Last week, Mayor Bottoms convened the first meeting of the Mayor’s Advisory Council on Immigrant Detention—a body comprised of City officials, immigrant rights activists and legal experts. 

In just the last quarter of this fiscal year, the backlog of citizenship applications increased by 23,952 applications, reaching the current backlog of 753,352 applications. At the current rate, it would take USCIS over 25 years to get back down to the Obama administration’s backlog level of 380,639 applications in 2015, and that is assuming no new applications. 

The letter requests a comprehensive and detailed plan describing how USCIS will achieve backlog reduction and a commitment to share the plan with mayors across the country. The letter also asks for specifics on previous measures taken by the agency to reduce the backlog and an analysis of why those measures failed.

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