Nation’s Mayors Support Minimizing Barriers to Naturalization and Increasing Number of U.S. Citizens

US Conference of Mayors passes resolution calling for proactive USCIS and Department of Homeland Security policy changes

June 24, 2014 BOSTON — On Monday, the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) voted overwhelmingly to pass a resolution that urges the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to make policy changes that will increase the number of U.S. Citizens from the pool of eligible lawful permanent residents. The resolution emphasizes that it is in the interest of the federal government, especially USCIS, to minimize barriers to naturalization by reducing fees for citizenship applicants and “offering alternatives like a sliding-scale income based approach or family unit fee.”

According to the Boston Redevelopment Authority, over 165,000 Boston residents – 27.1% of the city’s population – are foreign-born, but only 44.3% of those have naturalized. Although unemployment rates are nearly identical for native-born and foreign-born residents (10.3% vs 10.4% respectively), the average annual income for the foreign-born is nearly $15,000 less than their native-born neighbors. “Since our city’s founding nearly 400 years ago, immigrants have been a source of social and economic strength,” Said Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “It is crucial to the City of Boston that the federal government eases the economic barriers to citizenship to allow these residents to reach their potential and fully contribute to the strength of our community.”

The National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA) applauds the USCM resolution and has been calling for the reduction in the cost of U.S. citizenship for millions of eligible New Americans for over three years. There are dramatic benefits for local municipal governments when immigrants naturalize since citizenship increases local economic revenue, as well as creating “new economic opportunities and increased civic engagement.” Citizenship can also help New Americans increase their incomes, open businesses, and become homeowners.

“U.S. citizenship should not become a privilege limited to wealthy immigrants,” said NPNA Executive Director Joshua Hoyt. “An investment in immigrant integration pays dividends not just for immigrants and their families, but for our nation as a whole.” NPNA thanks Mayors from across the country for recognizing the benefits of citizenship and continues our call for USCIS to reduce the barriers to citizenship for the working poor.”

Since January 2012, NPNA has helped 29,560 immigrants across the country become U.S. citizens, saving our communities $36,240,320 in legal fees and fee waivers. Each N‐400 application fee is $680 and legal fees, on average, cost each applicant $1,000. As the barriers to citizenship are reduced, NPNA will continue growing our programs to meet the increasing demand for citizenship services.

A 2013 report released by NPNA and the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII) found that high naturalization fees have priced out hardworking immigrants who wish to become citizens. The report, Nurturing Naturalization: Could Lowering the Fee Help?, shows that the citizenship fee has tripled from $225 in 1999 to $680 in 2008. As fees have risen, applicants with less than a high school diploma have plummeted by more than half while there are 40 percent fewer Mexican immigrants applying for citizenship. In both cases, over half of these declines have occurred since a huge fee increase in 2007.

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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 the largest immigrant advocacy organizations in the country to mobilize millions of immigrants for integration and transformative social change. The Partnership creates and implements innovative programs that help immigrants become active and engaged citizens working for a stronger and more inclusive democracy and a vibrant nation.

The Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) is the largest organization in New England promoting the rights and integration of immigrants and refugees. We serve the Commonwealth's one million foreign-born residents with policy analysis and advocacy, institutional organizing, research, training and leadership development, and strategic communications.