WASHINGTON, D.C. — Over half a million people who call Ohio home are immigrants, but becoming a citizen takes time. And a growing backlog of cases at the U.S. Office of Citizenship and Immigration Services means wait times can stretch for months or years.

  • Over 2.4 million immigration cases currently delayed
  • Stivers bill seeks to understand root of problem
  • Ohio ranks as one of best areas for immigrants to become citizens

“Immigration can be a very divisive issue in this country, however, making the system work and making sure everybody understands what’s going on in the system — putting transparency to it, is not partisan, it’s bipartisan,” said Representative Steve Stivers (R, 15th Congressional District).

That’s why Stivers is teaming up with California Democrat Tony Cárdenas (D-California) to introduce a bill that would study the backlog of cases to better understand how the problem got so bad, and figure out what steps can be taken to fix it.

“The taxpayers are involved, there’s people’s lives involved, the economy’s involved,” Cárdenas said. "Everything’s connected. And for us to do this, I think it’s just going to bring a lot more clarity and transparency to the fact that we can do things better, and we need to.”

Stivers’ office said over 2.4 million immigration cases are currently delayed in the U.S. And the average processing time has increased by 91-percent in recent years.

The legislation he and Cárdenas have introduced would require the Office of Citizenship and Immigration Services to file a quarterly report on the status of the backlog and establish a separate report by the Government Accountability Office that would review the problem every other year.

All the findings would be made available to the public.

“It brings transparency to the problem for everybody, so that everybody — policymakers and citizens — can understand how bad the backlog is and then that information can be used by everyday citizens and lawmakers to understand and then put pressure to actually fix the problem,” Stivers said.

Cleveland, Ohio and Riverside, California were actually ranked in the top three best metropolitan areas for immigrants to become U.S. citizens, according to a recent report by the company Boundless Immigration.

The three worst areas were all in Texas.

So even though things are OK back in their home states, the congressmen said their legislation is about diagnosing the root of the backlog problem and figuring out a way for Congress to help fix it in a bipartisan fashion.

“What makes this country great is that it’s a country not of one original nationality, it’s a melting pot of amazing cultures and people from around the world,” Stivers said. “They choose to become Americans. They choose to come here. And I think we need to make sure that we keep that going.”

In response to a request for comment on whether they are supportive of this bill, a spokesperson for the U.S. Office of Citizenship and Immigration Services said they do not comment on proposed legislation.

Stivers and Cárdenas are now beginning the process of building support for the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.