SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – For immigrants, the process of becoming a U.S. citizen is extensive. After virus concerns forced the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to stop conducting interviews, it got even longer.
One Siouxland attorney tells KCAU 9 she’s helped more clients apply for citizenship in the last year than ever before.
Now, with the pandemic creating shutdowns and delays the citizenship of some Siouxlanders remains in limbo.
Attorney Heidi Oligmueller specializes in immigration law.
“People that filed before the pandemic are hoping to get sworn in and actually be classified as citizens, so they can register to vote because clearly non-citizens cannot vote. So that’s been the big issue for many of my clients who were descheduled from interviews, that are they going to get in on time to then be able to vote in the election in November,” said Oligmuuller.
Oligmueller said before the pandemic, it took about five months to get a citizenship interview. Now, Siouxlanders assigned to the Omaha field office are waiting as long as a year and a half.
“It’s so frustrating, absolutely and for people that wanted to vote,” Oligmueller added.
Like Eustoquia Barranco Torres, who filed for citizenship back in February.
“I was a little sad. I felt stressed, but I knew I had to have patience,” Torres said.
Torres’ application is set for October, but if she doesn’t pass her interview she won’t be able to vote in the election.
“If I can vote, I will be so happy to do so and if my application isn’t approved in time, I will feel upset if I don’t get the chance to vote,” Torres added.
“It’s impacting what would be eligible voters and clearly very frustrating for people who had it set that they would really like their voices heard in November,” Oligmueller said.
Oligmueller adds that nearly 20 of her clients had their citizenship interviews descheduled with an additional 50 to 60 of them stopped in the process before ever receiving an interview date.
Even though the Omaha field office has started doing interviews again, Oligmueller said the office is working with a limited staff so delays are expected to continue.
Oligmueller adds that the application fee will increase from $700 to over a thousand in October.
She recommends applying before then to avoid the jump in costs.