Report-Promising New Americans Being Priced Out of U.S. Citizenship

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Advocates launch “Becoming Americans” campaign calling on Congress, U.S.C.I.S. to support legal “Green Card” holder immigrants pursuing dream of American citizenship.

Today a group of researchers and immigrant advocacy organizations has released a report, “Nurturing Naturalization: Could Lowering the Fee Help?” The report was conducted by the University of Southern California Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII) with funding from Carnegie Corporation of New York, and commissioned by the National Partnership for New Americans. The report indicates that the $680 naturalization fee has become a major barrier to applying for U.S. citizenship for legal immigrants in low-wage jobs, a group that overwhelmingly desires to become American.

The National Partnership for New Americans and the National Immigration Forum will announce the “Becoming Americans” campaign to allow hardworking immigrants to pursue their dream of becoming U.S. citizens. The advocates are calling on U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (U.S.C.I.S.) to examine its fee structure and to reduce the costs of U.S. citizenship, especially for the working poor. The groups also will call on Congress to recognize the value of citizenship by investing in immigrant integration and putting naturalization fees within reach for our would-be newest Americans.

The “Nurturing Naturalization” report builds on a report released last week by the Pew Hispanic Center (“The Path Not Taken”). Both reports indicate that the American Dream of citizenship has become unaffordable for many immigrants to the U.S. — especially Mexican immigrants. The Pew report further indicates that fully 93 percent of Latino immigrants would become U.S. citizens if they could afford to do so. The new USC report goes a step further, exploring why citizenship is beyond reach for so many, the high cost.

The current immigration debate whirls around whether Congress will create a “path to citizenship” for the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. But few are paying attention to the 8.5 million legal immigrants (“Green Card” holders) who are currently eligible and want to apply for U.S. citizenship, but who have yet to do so.

Original analysis in the “Nurturing Naturalization” report indicates that: “Fee increases trigger a dramatic decline in the naturalization of less-educated (and likely lower income) immigrants, an increase in the number of years immigrants wait to become citizens, and a change in the national origin of the naturalizing population, in particular a relative reduction in those who were born in Mexico.”

This report has been delivered to U.S.C.I.S. Director Alejandro Mayorkas and the Partnership has met with him several times asking that he reduce the obstacles preventing new Americans from becoming U.S. citizens. 

About The Partnership

The National Partnership for New Americans (Partnership) advances the integration and active citizenship of immigrants to achieve a vibrant, just, and welcoming democracy for all. The Partnership is a national multiethnic, multiracial partnership that harnesses the collective power and resources of 12 of the largest immigrant advocacy organizations in the country to mobilize millions of immigrants for integration and transformative social change. In 2013 the member organizations of the National Partnership for New Americans worked in 12 states to directly assist 13,788 immigrants apply for U.S. citizenship.

About CSII

The Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII), funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York, has as its mission to remake the narrative for understanding, and the dialogue for shaping, immigrant integration in America. CSII brings together three emphases: scholarship that draws on academic theory and rigorous research, data that provides information structured to highlight the process of immigrant integration over time, and engagement that seeks to create new dialogues with government, community organizers, business and civic leaders, immigrants and the voting public.

About the National Immigration Forum

The National Immigration Forum advocates for the value of immigrants and immigration to our nation. In service to this mission, the Forum promotes responsible federal immigration policies, addressing today’s economic and national security needs while honoring the ideals of our Founding Fathers, who created America as a land of opportunity.