Nearly all Mexican immigrants in the United States say they want to become U.S. citizens one day. But even if they’re eligible, very few actually go through the process.
A new survey from the Pew Research Center shows that only 42 percent of Mexican green card holders eligible to apply for citizenship had done so by 2015.
That’s compared to 83 percent of the eligible population from the Middle East and 74 percent from Africa. Sixty-four percent of those from other countries in Latin America obtained citizenship.
To become a U.S. citizen, a green card-holder must be at least 18-years-old; have lived in the U.S. for five years; be able to understand basic English; and answer questions that demonstrate knowledge of U.S. government and history. Applicants must also swear allegiance to the United States.
Ninety-eight percent of the Mexicans surveyed by Pew said they would naturalize if they could. But they hadn’t due to poor English skills, lack of time or initiative, and cost of the application, among other reasons.
Applying for citizenship currently costs $640 per person, plus a background check.
In total, 19.8 million of the nearly 45 million total immigrants living in the U.S. were naturalized as of 2015. And naturalization rates were at the highest level in more than two decades (since Pew started measuring), at 67 percent of those eligible.
The early 1990s saw record numbers of people naturalize after congressional legislation passed in 1986 provided a path to lawful permanent residence and eventual citizenship for many unauthorized immigrants.
Researchers say early signs suggest that naturalization numbers are on the rise. In the first half of the fiscal year, which began October 1, some 525,000 people applied to naturalize, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). That’s up 21 percent from the 435,000 applications submitted in the same quarter of 2016, which was already up from previous years.
Many say that could be due to the anti-immigrant rhetoric associated with the U.S. presidential election, and actions taken by Donald Trump’s administration, which many see as anti-immigrant.
The share of Mexicans who are naturalizing is slightly higher now compared to the period between 2005 and 2011 when only 38 percent of Mexican green card holders applied.
Researchers add that Mexican immigrants may maintain closer ties to Mexico because of its proximity to the U.S., and “might return home at some point, which would reduce their interest in applying for citizenship.”
Mexican immigrants may also not be aware that they can hold both U.S. and Mexican citizenship at the same time. A Pew Research Center survey of Mexican immigrants in 2012 showed 29 percent were not aware that was possible.