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Citizen Hopefuls Frustrated By 1.5 Year Backlog

By Bill Zeeble, KERA reporter

Dallas, TX – Zeeble: Most speak only Spanish, and came here from El Paso & other cities. They've applied to be citizens and want to vote this fall. Eric Murillo is with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN

Murillo: There is another side to the immigration debate and there are people who've followed all the proper steps to get their citizenship. The normal wait was 7 months and was supposed to be reduced to 5.

Zeeble: But it's now taking up to 18 months to process applications, because there was a huge surge last June and July. Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Dr. Emilio Gonzalez says after the 350 percent increase in applications, processing slowed.

Dr. Emilio Gonzalez: Everyone who applies for citizenship has to be interviewed and tested. What happened is, we're in the process of hiring more people but there's a capacity of how many folks you can train at one time.

Zeeble: Gonzalez says those who applied for U.S. citizenship last summer will likely become citizens by the fall election. The Immigration service is now training 48 people a week, double the normal load, & they'll process the backlog of applications.

Gonzalez: We're going to naturalize more people this year than last. There's an aggregate net increase. We're also anticipating more people will become citizens in o8 than 07. it's not as though we're not doing enough, or are sitting on our hands.

Zeeble: Gonzalez says Citizenship and Immigration is also rehiring retired workers and is building a new Dallas facility that should be done by year's end. Bill Zeeble KERA news.