A new report — “A Rockier Road to U.S. Citizenship?” – suggests that the Trump administration is making it harder for green card holders to become American citizens.
In the end, the study by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) knocks down its own straw man. After floating a few unverified anecdotes from immigration lawyers, the D.C. think tank concluded that approval rates by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) remain in the 90 percent range, statistically no different than they were in the Obama era.
In fact, USCIS reported that it naturalized 834,000 citizens in fiscal year 2019, an 11-year high in new oaths of citizenship.
Still, MPI trotted out Leon Rodriguez, USCIS director from 2014-2016, to raise random “hard questions” about the agency’s current operations. Among them: Is USCIS more vulnerable to fraud? Have longer processing times precipitated an agency budget crisis? He offered no answers at a teleconference Thursday.
(Too bad Rodriguez wasn’t so committed to “real accountability” when he sat in the director’s chair. A 2016 Inspector General’s report assailed Rodriguez’s USCIS for improperly issuing at least 19,000 green cards, potentially “enabling terrorists, criminals and undocumented aliens to remain in the United States.”)
While insisting that his agency “operated with integrity,” Rodriguez at least acknowledged that sharp increases in citizenship processing times began on his watch. “We own it, it wasn’t perfect,” he averred.
In its amorphous critique of USCIS under Trump, MPI complains that the agency “shifted its focus from customer service to intensive vetting and fraud detection,” as if those are inappropriate activities. Holding a green card does not automatically confer citizenship; waiting periods, interviews and document reviews are all required by law.
If, as immigration attorney Eric Cohen claimed Thursday, USCIS is “manipulating the process” to unfairly deny citizenship applications, official statistics and MPI’s own numbers show the agency is doing a bad job of it. MPI has presented no valid reason to believe that the 700,000 citizenship applicants awaiting USCIS adjudication will get anything other than full consideration.