The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is trying to rush citizenship applications in a bid to affect the presidential election outcome against Donald Trump, a leaked internal memo has revealed.
The memo, obtained by Senate Republicans, shows a Texas immigration office demanded volunteers to work weekends, hoping to get as many people onto the citizenship rolls as possible before the end of September—which would give them enough time to register to vote in November.
According to a report in the Washington Times, Democrats and immigration groups had launched a drive to try to get eligible immigrants to become citizens in time to vote against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Those advocates fell well short of their goal of registering 1 million citizens, but the 600,000 they didn’t get to sign up by June have created a massive backlog that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is now working through, the Washington Times said.
The memo from a branch chief at the USCIS Houston field office said in the July memo that the goal was to get as many applications approved as possible “due to the election year.”
Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, chairmen of two committees with oversight of the Homeland Security Department, demanded answers from Secretary Jeh Johnson.
“Your department seems intent on approving as many naturalization cases as quickly as possible at a time when it should instead be putting on the brakes and reviewing past adjudications,” the two Republicans said in a letter to Johnson.
They pointed to an audit this week that found more than 800 illegal immigrants from terrorism-connected regions of the globe who’d been ordered kicked out of the country, but who were instead approved for citizenship because USCIS didn’t properly check their fingerprints.
In a statement, the USCIS said it tries to approve applications within seven months of the time they’re filed. The agency said it predicted an increase this year ahead of the elections, but got “caught flat-footed by how big the increase was,” the Washington newspaper said.
“USCIS has detailed staff to offices experiencing increased workloads and has authorized overtime for many offices. USCIS has also shifted some workloads to other offices to meet our normal processing times,” said Shin Inouye, a spokesman for the agency.
In the first six months of 2012, which was the previous presidential election year, the agency received nearly 500,000 applications, and processed only about 363,000 of them.
This year the agency received about 538,000 applications in the first six months, and approved nearly 367,000.
But in 2012 the agency didn’t appear to make a last-minute election push. In the final four months ahead of the election the agency made almost no progress on the 135,000-application backlog that built up in the previous months, according to a Washington Times analysis of agency statistics.
The push to approve new citizens in time for the election is not a new tactic. The Clinton administration attempted the same thing ahead of the 1996 election—with the result being massive fraud, the Washington Times revealed.
Tens of thousands of people were approved despite criminal records, and nearly 200,000 were approved without going through fingerprint checks that could have revealed criminal records.
“We sincerely hope history is not repeating itself,” Sens. Grassley and Johnson wrote in their letter.
There are some 8.8 million legal immigrants who have been in the U.S. for at least five years as legal permanent residents, making them eligible to apply for citizenship.
They are mostly Hispanic, and 30 percent are Mexican—and therefore natural anti-Trump voters.