For months, a theory has been floating around the conservative fringes of the Internet claiming that President Obama’s administration is working feverishly to grant citizenship to immigrants in order to sway the 2016 elections. The allegation got a push into the mainstream last week, with two Republican senators writing the Department of Homeland a letter that accused the agency of sloppily rushing through citizenship applications ahead of the election.
Their smoking gun? An email to low-level staffers sent by am immigration field office supervisor encouraging them to work overtime to process applications.
For well over a year now, conservative websites have sounded the alarm over every Obama administration measure that streamlined the process of naturalization — such as its move last September to allow credit card payments for applications — as proof that Democrats’ master plan to cook the 2016 elections involved swelling the voter rolls with thousands of newly-naturalized, Donald Trump-hating immigrants.
Earlier this month, the martial arts entertainer and conservative activist Chuck Norris warned in an WND column that Obama was “casting a wide net of amnesty and carting illegals into every American community with virtually no regard for safety in doing so.”
“But he does have one thing in mind for certain,” Norris wrote, “creating new voters in every state to ensure a 2016 win for the Democratic Party presidential nominee.”
Last April, a PJMedia headline blared, “Homeland Security Working Overtime to Add ‘New Americans’ by 2016 Election,” pointing to a DHS memo about the agency’s immigrant integration plan so that they can “fully participate in their communities,” according to the memo.
“‘Full participation’ is a term commonly used to include voting rights,” PJMedia wrote. “To that end, resources within DHS have been redirected toward pushing as many as aliens and non-citizens as possible to full citizenship status so they may ‘fully participate’ in the 2016 presidential election.”
The theory has now gone mainstream with the surfacing of an email sent out to immigration staffers in Houston encouraging them to work overtime to process citizenship applications. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), the chair the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, released the emails to Fox News last week, along with a letter he and Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) sent to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson about the emails.
Johnson also touted the issue on a radio appearance last Thursday.
“We’re also highly concerned about what Immigration Naturalization Services had done, and now the new service is doing in terms of potentially pushing people into citizenship at a very rapid rate prior to the election,” Johnson told AM 560 Radio’s Dan Proft, when asked about the rate of non-citizens voting. “Both myself and Senator Grassley have a letter out to Secretary Jeh Johnson asking, you know, exactly what USCIS is doing in regards to rapidly increasing the granting of citizenship. What kind of corners are being cut from that standpoint?”
In the July 21 email flagged by Johnson, the branch chief of the Houston office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services told staffers, “The Field Office due to the election year needs to process as many of their N-400 cases as possible between now and FY 2016.”
The line “due to the election year” was the major red flag for Grassley and Johnson, who wrote in their letter to the DHS that they had “serious” concerns about the “apparent push by your department to rush the adjudication of naturalization applications before the upcoming presidential election, presumably in an attempt to create as many new citizen voters as possible.”
Why the Democrats’ dark plan to steal the election hinged on rushing citizenship applications in the unwinnable state of Texas was not immediately clear. But nonetheless, the email spurred headlines that the “rush” was a “bid to affect election” by “naturalizing voters for Clinton.”
A spokesman for the DHS provided to TPM a different explanation for why officials were gearing up for a heavier workload: naturalization applications typically spike in an election year, but the DHS regardless tries to meet its goal of processing all applications within a few months.
“The issue at hand is our desire to ensure naturalization applications are processed within our normal times,” Shin Inouye, the press secretary for DHS’ U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), said in a statement to TPM Friday.
According to the statement provided by the USCIS, the agency usually sees a rise in citizenship applications in election years, but this year the increase has “exceeded expectations.”
“USCIS’s goal is to process applications for naturalization within five to seven months, regardless of external events such as elections,” Inouye said in the statement, while detailing some of the accommodations the agency has made to “meet our normal processing times.”
“USCIS certainly encourages our naturalized citizens to be active participants in our democracy,” he said. “However, like other citizens, no new U.S. citizen is required to register to vote, or participate in any election.”
TPM followed up with Johnson’s and Grassley’s offices with the USCIS response.
“Chairman Grassley is awaiting DHS’ explanation of this email as well as answers to the other requests raised in his letter to Secretary Johnson,” Grassley’s press secretary Taylor Foy said in an email.
Likewise, the press secretary for the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs said in an email that “Chairman Johnson looks forward to reviewing the response from DHS very soon.”
Update: This story has been updated to include comment from Johnson’s press secretary.