WASHINGTON — Only 36 percent of Mexican immigrants who are eligible to become United States citizens are taking steps to do so, a much lower rate than immigrants from other countries, according to a recent study.
The Pew Hispanic Center report said language, financial and administrative barriers are among the main reasons for legal residents not seeking citizenship.
“Financial is the number one reason that I see,” said Victor Nieblas, second vice president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
“People don’t come here and tell me ‘I can’t speak English, I don’t want to apply.’ The first thing they say is, ‘It’s too expensive and it’s burdensome,’ ” he said.
It comes as lawmakers say they are nearing agreement on a comprehensive immigration reform package that is likely to include not only fees but fines and back taxes for immigrants who may be here illegally before they can become eligible for legal permanent residence.
The report said Mexican immigrants account for 6.1 million of the estimated 11.1 million people who immigrated illegally to this country. Mexicans also make up the largest group of legal permanent residents in the United States, accounting for 3.9 million of the 12 million people.
But the report said that Mexicans pursue citizenship at slightly more than half the rate of all immigrants who are here legally, which is about 68 percent.
Nieblas said that many immigrants keep the thought of returning to their homelands in the back of their minds. Mexicans might hold onto that hope longer, delaying their naturalization, because of their proximity to the United States, he said.
“Once they realize that ‘I have children here, I have a life here, I’m not going back,’ that’s when they start becoming more serious about the naturalization process,” Nieblas said.
He said financial and administrative hurdles to naturalization are not unique to Mexicans, but affect most immigrants regardless of homeland.
That is especially true since the application fee has risen. Nieblas remembers when it cost a couple hundred dollars to apply for citizenship; now there is a 10-page application and a $680 fee.
The report also said language and personal barriers were cited as major reasons why Latino legal permanent residents have not naturalized.
Regina Jefferies, head of the Arizona chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said many immigrants she works with are worried about not speaking English well enough. In reality they speak English just fine, they just are not confident, she said.
“Sometimes people don’t feel they have the language skills, but when you actually talk to them they do in most cases,” she said.
The primary reason Jefferies sees for legal residents not applying is financial and not wanting to have to struggle with the application. The people she works with sometimes do not have the time to deal with the complex application.
And with the possibility of comprehensive immigration reform on the horizon, Jefferies is worried the system may become more complicated if it is poorly executed.
“It’s just going to add additional layers and layers of complexity to an already byzantine system,” she said. “It doesn’t make sense to have a system that is that complicated.”
Nieblas said it is hard to speculate on how reform might affect the current process because of secrecy of the negotiations, which he compared to the selection of the pope.
“It seems as though they’re in a conclave or something and we’re waiting for white smoke,” Nieblas said.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Sunday on “Meet the Press” that the eight senators working on an immigration reform package could come to an agreement next week. But while broad outlines have been discussed, few details have been released.
Whatever the final form of the bill, Nieblas said it should try to lower naturalization fees and streamline the application.
The Pew report said that 93 percent of Latinos would naturalize if they could.
- The Pac-12 football season nears kickoff
- Tips to get ready for a pain-free golf season
- Protect your family with these 7 home security features
- How to train like an Olympic swimmer
- 2016 Olympics: A guide to must-see TV events
- The bride's guide to feeling your best on your wedding day
- Deciding when you need knee surgery
- Celebrating Fourth of July is much cooler in these AZ towns
- Top ten road trip bathrooms in America
- Six things causing a pain in your neck
- 5 things to make your summer move easier
- Three elements of a strong timeshare exit guarantee
- Stretches and exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome
- The best Major League ballparks have their own personality
- Comparing the best regular seasons: The '96 Bulls and '16 Warriors
- 3 Arizona road trips and the vehicles to get you there
- Colon cancer is preventable. Check these signs and symptoms to stay healthy.
- 6 of the biggest skin cancer myths
- Affordable small home makeover ideas
- Locals helping locals: 6 success stories you need to know about
- Sunscreen facts that could save your life
- 6 energy saving hacks for your home
- 5 tips for choosing a company to end your timeshare
- Overlooked water tips to save you money
- 5 of the most adored gentlemen in professional sports today
- The real danger of sitting at your desk
- Most surprising NBA playoff performances of the last 40 years
- 11 classic baseball movies you must see again
- Finally getting rid of fat: 3 methods that actually work
- 4 reasons cancer survivors should focus on food