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Migration Policy Institute Podcasts

MPI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank dedicated to the study of the movement of people worldwide.

A Bumpy Path to U.S. Citizenship: A Survey of Changing USCIS Practices

Posted in US Immigration Policy by migrationpolicy on July 16th, 2020

Even as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) continues to approve the lion’s share of naturalization applications it receives, the agency’s average processing times have risen significantly in recent years. The backlog of citizenship cases has grown in 2020, with the naturalization process grinding to a halt for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And it will swell further if USCIS furloughs two-thirds of its staff in August amid a projected $1.2 billion budget shortfall.

Nine million immigrants are eligible to become U.S. citizens but have not done so for a variety of reasons. A more recent element has been added to the mix: increasingly strict scrutiny of applications by USCIS officers as the agency shifts its focus from customer service to fraud detection, as traced in a Migration Policy Institute report, A Rockier Road to U.S. Citizenship? Findings of a Survey on Changing Naturalization Procedures. The report traces the agency’s evolving adjudication standards and procedures for citizenship applications during the Trump administration, drawing on a nationwide survey of naturalization assistance providers. The report findings were shared during this MPI webinar, which features officials who oversaw the citizenship process during prior administrations, as well as the study’s lead researcher and the executive director of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, which administered the survey.

In this interesting conversation moderated by MPI’s Doris Meissner, the discussants—MPI Director of Research for U.S. Programs Randy Capps, ILRC Executive Director Eric Cohen, and former USCIS Director Leon Rodriguez—examine the increasing obstacles to citizenship as a result of changing USCIS practices, and the effects the pandemic-related shutdown and USCIS financial turmoil could have on the ability of would-be Americans to take the oath of citizenship in the months ahead.

Enhancing the Social and Economic Inclusion of Refugees through Local Development Strategies

Humanitarian and development actors in low- and middle-income countries that host refugees have focused many of their recent interventions on integrating newcomers into national development strategies and promoting access to public services nationwide. But how do these efforts play out at the local level?

This MPI Europe conversation explores how development actors can work with local authorities to enhance the social and economic inclusion of refugees. Subnational authorities have been at the forefront of hosting refugees; while their capacity can be narrow, they often have first-hand experience in managing relations between host and refugee communities. During this webchat, experts discuss partnerships between local authorities, the UNHCR, and development actors that are aimed at integrating refugees in local governance mechanisms. These experiences suggest that improvements for refugees often start at the local level, where general principles agreed upon in international fora are being tested. 

This discussion involving representatives from the World Bank, UNHCR, and Kenya’s Refugee Affairs Secretariat explores three main questions: How can development and humanitarian actors engage with local institutions to promote refugee inclusion? How has the involvement of refugees in local institutions materialized and what are the ways to ensure this participation leads to tangible changes? Finally, in fragile environments, how can discussions on refugee inclusion enhance the engagement of other groups that have traditionally been marginalized in refugee-hosting regions (e.g., internally displaced persons, ethnic minorities, or returnees)?

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