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Even When They Qualify For Citizenship, Few Mexican Immigrants Seek It

Posted: February 5, 2013

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Mexican immigrants who are eligible for U.S. citizenship are much less likely to apply for naturalization than those from other immigrant groups, a study found.

While a path to citizenship is a central component of proposed changes to the nation's immigration laws, most Mexican immigrants now eligible for U.S. citizenship don't obtain it, according to a new study.

The Pew Hispanic Center report found that only about 36 percent of eligible Mexicans take the steps to become U.S. citizens, compared to 68 percent of all other immigrants.

The study, which was published Monday, doesn't say why there's such a big gap in naturalization between Mexican immigrants and immigrants from other countries who might face similar challenges. Even immigrants from other Latin American and Caribbean nations are naturalized at a much higher clip — 61 percent — than are Mexicans, Pew found.

Mexicans make up more than half of the estimated 11.1 million immigrants who are in the United States illegally, Pew said.

About a quarter of the respondents cited personal barriers, like the need to learn English and the difficulty of the citizenship test, as reasons they hadn't tried to become naturalized, according to the report, which is based on Census Bureau data. About 1 in 5 cited administrative hurdles, like the $680 cost for an application to become a naturalized citizen.

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has proposed a blueprint for changes to immigration law that would include a legal path to citizenship. President Obama also is pushing for an immigration overhaul plan predicated on a provision that would let many immigrants now in the country start a process to become legal citizens.

And on Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee was holding the first congressional hearing of the year on the topic.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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