Record Numbers of New Citizens Created

AP, May 16, 2008

Though immigration officials in Phoenix are churning out record numbers of new U.S. citizens, critics say federal officials aren’t working fast enough, so many immigrants won’t become citizens in time to vote in November.

The Phoenix office for Citizenship and Immigration Services plans to grant citizenship to 2,000 legal immigrants this month, more than twice the usual 800 for May.

Charles Harrell, the office’s acting district director, said the immigration service is responding to a surge of applications that poured in last year.

Citizenship applications spike every four years preceding a presidential election, but the record surge last year was triggered by factors including a 70 percent fee increase that prompted thousands of immigrants to apply before the increase took effect Aug. 1.

Many immigrants also applied in hopes of being able to vote for president in the November general election.

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The flood of citizenship applications created a huge backlog. By the end of December, more than 1 million immigrants were waiting for their applications to be processed, and the CIS said it could take up to 18 months to plow through the backlog, compared with the usual six-month wait.

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