Institutional efforts encouraging legal permanent residents (LPRs) to apply for U.S. citizenship ahead of the 2016 elections look to be paying off as the number of green card holders applying for naturalization are up by 26 percent over the same period during the same period the year before. The number– approximately 718,500 in the fiscal year 2016 period through June– represents an 8 percent increase over the number four years ago before the 2012 election.
The increase in the naturalization application rate, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) data, is likely directly correlated to a naturalization push from the White House and interest groups. But while some organizers behind the efforts suggest the rise in naturalization applications is predominantly reactionary to Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy, Pew analysts question the political influence on the numbers as “naturalization data shows there have been much larger percentage increases in past years, with jumps not always coming during election years.”
The pattern for increase in naturalization applications correlates to the current 2016 presidential election year as well as to the previous 2012 election year when USCIS saw a 19 percent increase in immigrant citizenship applications. However, in the run up to the 2008 election, USCIS actually experience a 62 percent decrease in naturalization applications from the previous year.
Essentially, Pew analysts point out in their report that economics is likely a stronger driver of naturalization applications than presidential politics. For instance, the highest spike in naturalization applications since government tracking began in 1907 occurred in fiscal year 2007. The nearly 1.4 million applications at the time represented an 89 percent increase over the previous year. The flood, according to Pew, can be attributed to a $235 adult application fee increase that took the cost from $330 to $595.
The Pew report points out that naturalized Asians and Latinos are highly appealing to Democratic leaders as the two groups have “long favored Democratic presidential candidates in past elections.” On top of this, naturalized Asians and Latinos tend to have a higher voter turnout rate than their U.S.-born counterparts.
In this election year, naturalized immigrants comprise 24 percent of eligible Hispanic voters. Sixty-one percent of eligible Asian voters are naturalized immigrants.