National Immigration Forum

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Value of Citizenship: PhotoBlog to Celebrate Citizenship Day

September 17, 2012 - Posted by Guest

On Citizenship Day, we celebrate the U.S. Constitution and those who have become citizens. New and Old American Citizens have been celebrating Citizenship Day side by side since Congress declared the first “I am an American Day” in 1940. Historical footage from the 1940’s shows gigantic balloons and parade floats making their way through the New York City streets and a crowd of over a million people gathering in Central Park to welcome New American Citizens and celebrate “I am an American” Day together. In 1952 President Truman, changed the name of the day to Citizenship Day and forty years later Congress requested that the day expand to Constitution Week, running every year from September 17-September 23rd.

Currently, there are 8.5 million immigrants in the U.S. who are eligible for citizenship. They come from around the world. The top five countries of origin for immigrants who are eligible are Mexico (31%), Philippines (4%), Dominican Republican (3%), Cuba (3%), and India (2.8%).

And they live across the United States. The states with the highest percentage of eligible immigrants living there include: California (28.6); New York (11.7), Texas (10.8), Florida (9.3); Illinois (4.3); New Jersey (4.2); Massachusetts (2.3); Washington State (2.0); Arizona (2.0); and Virginia (1.7).

For these facts and others about eligible legal permanent residents click here.

It is as true today as the first Citizenship Day that immigrants want to be part of America. Today, many aspiring citizens are taking the steps to become sworn-in New American Citizens—in fact 694,193 legal permanent residents became New American Citizens in 2011. This is lower than historical surges in 2008 when over 1 million New Americans naturalized but much higher than naturalization in the 1950’s when less than 120,000 immigrants naturalized each year. (Source: US Naturalizations 2011)

However, many barriers stand in the way of an eligible immigrant becoming a New American Citizen.

Barriers include:

    Information-Not knowing how or where to get information.
    Cost-The application fee is $680 and legal services can be as much as $3,000. One survey of Ya Es Hora citizenship workshop participants found that two out of every five eligible aspiring citizens delayed filing their applications due to cost.
    English Language Skills-Many aspiring citizens need help learning English before they can pass the citizenship exam. It’s difficult to learn a language as an adult and waiting lists for classes are long.
    Time-Between multiple jobs and child care it can be hard to find the time. (Inspiring story how worksite and technology support can help.)

But if aspiring citizens can navigate the process there is economic payoff. Citizenship has incredible value.

The Migration Policy Institute’s report, Economic Value of Citizenship for Immigrants in the United States, suggests there is evidence that New American Citizens will earn a wage premium of 5%. They note this premium may be larger for women and Latino immigrants.

But what is 5%?

Well, it’s a nickel added to every dollar earned.

You might say, “That’s just pocket change!”

But if you earn $10/hour and if you do a day’s work (8 hours) that’s $ 4 Extra Dollars.
You might say, “Who cares? There’s more than that under my !”

But over a week (5 days), that’s $20, or $80 a month, which over a year adds up to approximately: $1,000 dollars.

And that’s a lot of nickels over just one year!

All those nickels are then invested by an immigrant in:

  • Education!

  • Homeownership!

  • Consumption!

  • Small Business!

Suddenly, all those nickels created by New American citizenship are adding up to make an incredibly valuable impact for Families & Local Economies.

On this Citizenship Day, we honor the 694,193 New Americans who became Citizens last year and we work to reduce barriers for the 8.5 million eligible legal permanent residents who have yet to reach citizenship.

To learn more how to become a citizen click here or to learn more about policies related to citizenship and immigrant integration click here.

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