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More on the rush to naturalization

The Trib looks at the trend in Texas.

Amid a heated presidential election focusing heavily on immigration, a similar uncertainty about the future of immigration policies under a new president appears to be pushing thousands of legal residents in Texas — some of whom, like Camacho, have lived here for decades — to apply for citizenship in hopes of securing their place in the country.

“To say that something is pushing them to finally conclude that process, that is the current political climate in the United States,” said Douglas Interiano of Proyecto Inmigrante in Fort Worth. “You look at those people’s faces and ask why did it take you so long for you to apply, and the reply will vary from ‘we didn’t have the money’ to ‘I am afraid that I might lose my status.’”


The number of naturalization applications submitted from Texas to the federal government is on the rise, thousands of legal permanent residents, commonly referred to as green card holders, are lining up for help at citizenship workshops and thousands more are holding up their right hands and repeating the naturalization oath at citizenship ceremonies.

It’s an uptick that’s not uncommon in presidential election years, but nonprofit workers helping legal residents apply for citizenship attribute the current application rush to a sense of fear among the immigrant community.

“They have fears that maybe they’ll lose their residency card if someone is elected or that if someone is elected it’s going to be more difficult,” said Mariana Sanchez, CEO of the Houston-based Bonding Against Adversity group, which is helping legal residents apply for citizenship. “They think, ‘We are legal residents so we better become U.S. citizens because we’ll be safe.’”

Naturalization applications from legal residents in Texas dipped slightly in the federal 2015 fiscal year compared to the year before. But applications jumped almost 14 percent in the July to September 2015 quarter — the latest federal figures available — compared to the same period in 2014.

Immigration nonprofit workers say the numbers have only continued to grow since then.


Almost 8.8 million legal residents in the U.S. are eligible to naturalize with about 2.7 million of them hailing from Mexico, according to federal figures.

With 1.3 million legal residents living in Texas, the state ranks third among states with the most legal residents eligible for citizenship — a figure the U.S. Department of Homeland Security puts at 950,000.

See here for the background. It’s nice to have some numbers in this discussion, especially for Texas, but they will need to be refined considerably before we can take any guess about what it may mean for this year. How many of these folks will actually go through the process this year? How many of them will then register to vote, and how likely are they to do so? Finally, who will they vote for in the Presidential race, and how will they vote downballot? What if anything are the state and county parties doing to facilitate this? Even under a highly optimistic scenario, there’s unlikely to be much effect at a state level – I will be interested in seeing what the voter registration numbers look like, that’s for sure – but given that these folks will surely be more prevalent in the big metro areas, there could be a greater effect at a local level. I’m glad the Trib is writing about this, but I’d also like to hear from the pollsters, the political scientists, and the activists. Is this a big deal? If so, how big? If not, why not? I hope to hear a lot more.

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  1. […] million as a starting point, with 3.5 million as a starting point for the Dems. Perhaps between the newly minted citizens and other efforts, perhaps boosted by Julian Castro on the ticket, Dems van boost themselves to 3.8 […]