There are many reasons an immigrant may not want to become a citizen. However, most of the time people avoid naturalization because they are facing one or many obstacles on their path. There are a few solutions to help raise interest in and dispel any fears and concerns about the naturalization process.
The most common obstacles are poverty, disability, and limited English fluency. For example, it costs $710 to just apply for naturalization in addition to any fees they may incur if seeking counsel. Applying for naturalization also takes a lot of time and effort to research what exactly needs to be done and most immigrants do not have the time, especially if they are poor.
If an immigrant is 150% below the poverty line, they are eligible to have the fee waived. The problem is that most people are not made aware of this fact while considering applying. Of the 9 million immigrants eligible for citizenship nearly half of them could be eligible for this waiver. Yet data from 2013-2016 shows only 20% of applications came in with waiver requests.
As an example, immigrants that are originally from Mexico. According to the Pew Research Center, of the 9 million immigrants able to apply for naturalization in 2015 3.5 million of them were Mexican. Only 42% of them naturalize, compared to 74% for non-Mexican immigrants. A similar pattern can be seen when comparing Mexican immigrants to other Latino countries with a 42% and 62% rate of naturalization respectively.
The U.S. is so close to Mexico it may stop them from applying. Many Mexicans believe they still might return to Mexico due to its proximity and the fact that most of their family may still be there. A solution to this is not readily made clear for the people that need it but is still available is the option of dual citizenship. Many countries allow people to hold the benefits of both countries. Making immigrants aware that they have this option would help push them in the direction of citizenship because as it stands, many are not aware this even exists.
Limited English fluency is a major reason many immigrants do not seek naturalization. There is an exam on civics and English immigrants must take in order to become citizens and prove very intimidating for those without a complete understanding of English. Perhaps providing English courses at low or no cost at various times of the day would incentivize people to go through with their applications. It could be an English class and an information source rolled into one.
The processing times alone are enough to dishearten an immigrant from seeking citizenship, especially under the current administration. Immigrants are being deported for things they’ve done well into their past and have rehabilitated from. They might be wary of submitting their case for naturalization only for an officer to discover a discrepancy from 20 years ago which may result in their deportation. Even though they have been an upstanding resident since acquiring their status. That leaves an up to 20-month window where they will be left in limbo, unaware if their application will lead to citizenship or deportation. It is almost as if fear is being used to keep immigrants away from naturalization, and subsequently, voting.
The resources to motivate people towards becoming citizens are all available to anyone who needs them. However, they tend to be hidden within a bureaucratic labyrinth. Immigrants need to be made aware of these resources that can facilitate their application.
Achieving citizenship is a major feat and everyone must have the same opportunity of accomplishing it, but so long as we continue to see failure to communicate, interest in citizenship shall remain low.
Now that you have been made aware of all the resources available to you what is keeping you from achieving your citizenship? If you are still unsure of what is required of you or would like assistance, please do not hesitate to call us at (213) 489-5202 or visit our website at elsamartinezlaw.com to set up an appointment. We can help you achieve your American dream!