Citizenship Application Rates Flounder Among Mexican LPRs

While citizenship applications among lawful permanent residents (LPRs)– green card holders– reaches its highest level in two decades, the naturalization rate among Mexicans– the single largest group of LPRs in the country–  lags well behind eligible applicants from other countries of origin. According to the latest available numbers, approximately two-thirds of eligible immigrants had applied for and received citizenship, but only 42 percent of Mexican immigrants fall into the category.

The naturalization rate for green card holders from Mexico, as of 2015, trailed that of lawful immigrants from the Middle East by 42 percentage points– 42 per percent compared to 83 percent. In the same year, 74 percent of green card holders from Africa naturalized, a difference of 33 percentage points over immigrants from Mexico. Pew reports the highest naturalization rate falls to immigrants from the Middle East while African immigrants represent the highest increase in naturalization rates over the last decade.

As of 2015, 52 percent of eligible Latino immigrants– those from Mexico as well as Central and South American countries– naturalized as U.S. citizens. Breaking down this population, immigrants from Mexico naturalized at a rate of 42 percent compared to 64 percent among those immigrants originally from other Latin American countries.

The numbers, based on estimates from Pew Research Center, uses the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data from 2015. According to Pew, the naturalization rate now is at its highest rate since the mid-1990’s. For immigrants from Mexico, the naturalization rate is virtually unchanged since 2005 and remains a country of origin with one of the lowest rates of naturalization.

In 2015, of the 9.3 million green card holders meeting eligibility requirements for citizenship application, immigrants from Mexico comprised 37 percent of the group. Immigrants from Mexico represent the single largest group of green card holders without U.S. citizenship based on country of origin.

Among reasons cited by Mexican green card holders for not pursuing U.S. citizenship are inadequate English skills, lack of time or initiative and the cost of the U.S. citizenship application. At the same time, nearly all immigrants from Mexico told Pew researchers they would like to become U.S. citizens someday.

Pew, which published the findings in a June report, states the current volume of citizenship applications pales to the rate in 1997 when immigrants filed 1.41 million applications. In 2007, the segment filed 1.38 million applications.

“These spikes were triggered in large part by congressional legislation passed a decade earlier that provided a path to lawful permanent residence and eventual citizenship for many unauthorized immigrants,” the Pew report reads.

Pew arrives at the naturalization rate by calculating the number of naturalized immigrants divided by the number of naturalized immigrants plus the number of eligible citizenship applicants in any given year.