Last four months has seen a rise in the number of applications for U.S. Citizenship by legal permanent residents in the country. The recorded number of applicants has been the highest since October 2015 and highest in the past 4 years as well, with a 5% increase for the numbers for the same period before the elections in 2012. Some organizers for naturalization and voter registrations opine that this could be due to Trump’s candidacy and views on immigration.
However, analysis by the Pew Research Center shows that the percentage of applicants has been larger in the past, than the ones currently reported and has no previous co-relation with elections. In the fiscal year starting October 2015 to January 2016, a total of 249,609 legal permanent residents have applied for naturalization in the U.S., registering a 13% increase in the number of applicants for the same time period about a year ago. And since the last elections in 2011 to 2012, the current election cycle has witnessed a 19% increase in the number of applicants for naturalization.
Number of applicants doesn’t just increase only due to presidential elections, in the past there have been spikes due to a pending increase in processing fees. In fiscal years 2007 and 2008, the number of applications had reduced by 62%, as a result of rush applications that had been filed ahead of a pending increase in the application fee from $330 to $595 for adults that were to take place on 30th July 2007, taking the percentage increase from the previous year to an 89% – highest of 1.4 million applications that have even been noted since the year 1907.
The country experienced another wave in the mid 1990’s i.e. between fiscal years 1995 to 1998, where over 900,000 people applied for a U.S. citizenship every year and in the year 1997, the number of applicants peaked at 1.4 million. This was attributed to laws that were passed by the congress in the mid 1980’s at a time when “The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986” was effected with close to 2.7 million illegal immigrants were given the status of permanent residency, 40% of which had applied for a green card and had become naturalized citizen by the year 2009.
The congress in 1996, also passed laws to limit the access to public benefits and legal protections extended to non-citizens and included a number of offenses under which an immigrant, including those with a legal permanent residency status could be deported to their home countries. In the year 2013 alone, estimates for legal immigrants with permanent residency status seeking naturalization turned out to be a whopping 8.8 million. The number consisted of 3.9 legal
immigrants from Latin America, 1.5 million from Asia with a 2.7 million from Mexico alone; although it is less likely for Mexican immigrants to opt for naturalization.
Several groups including political groups have pushed for increasing the numbers of naturalized citizens and in some cases included Latin American voters in the voters list to increase the voter turnouts. Democratic presidential campaigns have long been favored by the Asian and Latin American communities.
Voter turnouts for the Hispanic and Asian ethnicity have been lower compared to that of whites and blacks, although the naturalized citizens belonging to both the communities have a bigger turnout rate than the citizens who are U.S. born. For the fiscal year 2012, the voter turnout rate for naturalized Hispanics was 54%, whereas the turnout rate for Hispanics born in the U.S. was only 46%. The figures for Asians turned out to remain comparatively less skewed with 49% turnout rate for naturalized immigrants and a 43% turnout rate to U.S. born Asians.
What is a crucial deciding factor in this year’s election campaign is that the naturalized citizens make up for 61% of eligible Asian voters and 24% of eligible Hispanic voters. Although the data is not out yet, it could also turn out that the number of applicants have spiked during the spring season for 2016, owing to the increase in the number of applicants around the same time in the past years. The number may continue to rise during the summer season as well but how many of the applicants are given a citizenship in due time to vote, is still not clear. It takes 6-7 months to process applications for naturalization and with the election day slated to be November 8th of 2016, there have been suggestions by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency to raise the application fee for some of the immigrants, while low-income applicants would continue to pay a discounted fee, thus giving a further push to the number of possible applications that would be filed this year.