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‘There’s No Citizenship Backlog Here’

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‘There’s No Citizenship Backlog Here’

Esperanza Vargas, 71, is wondering what happened to her application. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)

A record 460,000 immigrants nationwide applied for U.S. citizenship last July, just before a steep increase in the fee. But many of them are still awaiting approval. In Chicago, about two dozen immigrants confronted a federal official about it yesterday.

Citizenship and Immigration Services received Esperanza Vargas’ application July 26. Almost nine months later, the retired factory worker says she’s still waiting to hear back from the agency.

ambi: Spanish speakers.

Flanked by supporters yesterday, Vargas confronted an immigration spokeswoman in downtown Chicago.

VARGAS: Cual es el motivo? Hay un problema con mis papeles?

Is there a problem with my papers? she asked.

The spokeswoman, Marilu Cabrera, said she didn’t know offhand about this case.

CABRERA: Esta no es una situación para hablar de casos específicos...

But Cabrera insisted the Chicago immigration office has no citizenship backlog. This week the federal government reported that the office is averaging eight-and-half months to process applications if they aren’t complicated.

That’s shorter than in some parts of the country, but more than two months longer than the traditional wait. And Flavia Jiménez of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights says many local applicants have been waiting more than a year.

JIMENEZ: These are human beings, waiting sometimes to bring their family members over to the United States...

...or looking forward to another right.

VARGAS: Yo quiero votar.

Vargas says she wants to vote.

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