One of the key constructs of American immigration policy is family. When people request entry into our country their immediate family members are given priority. This reflects one of the most basic values of our American community. When it comes to people who have come here via non sanctioned immigration routes, the policy is no longer applicable. And there in lies the rub–the policy has not worked very well over the past few decades … Even as we try to piece together four decades of uncontrolled immigration and broken immigration policy, we are still not clear about how September 11th and the recent deep recession are transforming who we are. Now immigration policy is tearing at our fabric…
The American dream, even “What is America?”, hangs in the balance as the Nation decides what to do with 40 million immigrants to this land. The act of becoming a U.S. citizen is increasingly under a public microscope of political scrutiny. The lens through which we see immigrants today is increasingly made more opaque by the currently divided American polity, and the fear and controversy brewing over our National borders.
As the country struggles with economic recessions, NSA scandals, the aftermath of homeland terrorism, and crisis in its educational, incarceration and healthcare systems, it is not in a generous mood to take in the world’s huddled masses yearning to be free.
“As Congress debates a comprehensive immigration bill, one key element under consideration is whether to offer a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s estimated 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants. If a bill were to pass including such a provision, how many would take advantage of the opportunity?
The answer is of course speculative. The Pew Hispanic Center has conducted surveys and analyses of government data that offer some insights – but not all of them point in the same direction.
A survey we conducted in 2012 found that more than nine-in-ten (93%) Hispanic immigrants who are not citizens said they would like to become a U.S. citizen. This was true both for those who are legal permanent residents (96%) and for those who aren’t (92%). The vast majority in the latter group is in the country illegally.
Despite this near universal expression of a desire for citizenship, our analysis of government data shows that a majority of Hispanic immigrants who are eligible to seek citizenship have not yet taken the opportunity to do so. Only 46% of Hispanic immigrants eligible to naturalize (become citizens) have, compared with 71% percent of all immigrants who are not Hispanic and are eligible to naturalize. The naturalization rate is particularly low among the largest group of Hispanic immigrants – Mexicans – among whom just 36% have naturalized.
Our 2012 survey also found that the reasons most often cited for not seeking citizenship were not speaking English (as required by a citizenship test), not being able to afford it (it costs $680 to apply for citizenship), and just not yet having gotten around to trying.”