- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 1, 2007

The number of immigrants who became American citizens reached an all-time high in 2005, and the percentage of those who did so reached its highest level in a quarter-century, according to a study released last week.

Growth in legal immigration, as well as a greater tendency among foreign-born residents to embrace U.S. citizenship, accounts for the trend, the Pew Hispanic Center said in its report based on federal data.

The nation’s 12.8 million naturalized citizens made up more than half of all legal immigrants living in the United States two years ago, compared with a low of 38 percent in 1990, Pew researchers found. The percentage of immigrants becoming citizens in 2005 was about the same as in 1980.

“Today’s immigrants are interested in becoming U.S. citizens, and that’s showing up in the increased percentage of those who are eligible taking advantage of it,” said Jeffrey Passel, the study’s lead researcher. “It’s reached a point where the majority of those eligible to naturalize have done so.”

The analysis also showed that immigrants who qualify for citizenship are applying for it more quickly than in the past. A decade ago, about two-thirds of the eligible immigrants who had been in the United States for more than 20 years were naturalized. Now, about three-quarters have become citizens.

Scholars said the reasons why the naturalization rate has risen are probably as varied as the people who apply for citizenship. Some of the theories proposed in the study and by others in the field include uncertainty generated by immigration reform and stricter national security policies, interest in voting and other benefits of citizenship, and an increased acceptance of dual nationality in other countries.

The number of naturalized citizens from the Middle East, for example, grew 156 percent from 1995 to 2005, with the most rapid growth occurring after 2001. With their countries of origin in political turmoil and facing suspicion after the terrorist attacks of September 11, they may be more eager to secure their rights and ability to remain here, analysts said.

“It would be ideal if people were making the decision to become an American as an expression of full-fledged commitment to this country, not as a defensive measure,” said Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which favors limits on immigration.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide