Noncitizens unable to participate in caucuses

Naturalization applications take on average 16 to 18 months to process.

Riham Feshir

Super Tuesday isn’t as exciting for some students as it is for others.

Noncitizen students in the process of becoming citizens won’t be able to participate in Minnesota’s precinct caucuses tonight because becoming a U.S. citizen by November is a requirement for participation in tonight’s caucuses, according to the U.S. Department of State. But many are unsure of how long it will take for them to be naturalized.

Naturalization applications take about 16 to 18 months to process, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services department reports.

“It can be very frustrating for a student who’s applying for citizenship to have to wait for one and a half years to be sworn in,” said Luis Bartolomei, staff attorney at the University Student Legal Service.

University first-year student Saida Hassan, who is from Somalia, sent in her citizenship application Friday. She said she thought there’d be enough time before the November elections for her to complete the final step in becoming a citizen, which includes a ceremony before a judge. She said one main reason she wants to become a citizen is to vote.

“It’s going to irritate me if I don’t get it on time,” she said.

The USCIS received 3 million applications over the summer before filing fees increased from $400 to $675 in July. Because of the large number of applications, the department said it has been backed up.

To become a citizen, residents’ applications must be approved by the USCIS before background checks and finger prints are taken of applicants, according to the department. The naturalization test follows before finally waiting for a letter stating when the applicants are to take the oath of citizenship and receive their naturalization certificates.

Computer science junior Ali Husain, who is from Pakistan, applied seven years ago and said he’s finally getting somewhere this year with an interview scheduled in March.

“It’s kind of depressing,” Husain said, “to wait for this long.”

Bartolomei said the overwhelming number of applications and fees are reasons for the delay and that the application process can take as little as six months or as many as five or more years. He added that whether the delay has something to do with the way the new citizens would eventually vote is questionable.

Bartolomei said many of the people striving for citizenship are likely to vote Democrat, adding his speculation that the Republican administration may be slowing down the process on purpose, in order to prevent Democrats from picking up new voters.

“I don’t know if there is any truth to that,” Bartolomei said. “(But) it seems suspicious.”

Some students, however, think holding legal residency in the U.S. is enough and are not trying to become citizens.

“It gives me everything everybody else has,” Somali electrical engineering junior Sadik Ali said.

But Bartolomei said the threat of being deported from the United States is a powerful motivator to apply for citizenship.

“As long as you’re not a citizen, you’re removable,” Bartolomei said.