Given growing political uncertainties in immigration reform efforts, advocacy groups and legal advocates have begun efforts to mobilize U.S. permanent residents to apply for citizenship. At present, nearly 8.8 million within the U.S. are permanent residents, or green card holders, are eligible for naturalization, nearly a third of whom come from Mexico.
In New York City alone there were 14 citizenship events held over the weekend at local public venues like libraries, college and union facilities, hospitals, and community organizations to register permanent residents for citizenship; there are usually 8 such events at this time. The events mark the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, which have been held up in legal proceedings.
Many believe that these efforts are largely geared toward mobilizing a Latino voting bloc, especially in counter to the current GOP frontrunners, many of whom have capitalized on the polarity of immigration issues to make a case for themselves. Notable among them is Donald Trump, who referred to Mexican immigrants in particular as “murderers” and “rapists.”
Attendees of these events are also feeling the pressure to shore up their status in the U.S. Allan Wernick, director and co-founder of the City University of New York’s Citizenship Now legal assistance program, told the New York Times that his legal clinic has been booked solid recently with residents working towards naturalization. “There’s something in the air saying that they’re coming for you, and that you better get as solid as you can,” he said.
Though many applicants turned up to these events, many others are turned away, mostly for their lack of English mastery. Because of low wages and long or unstable working hours, immigrants are often unable to participate in formal language learning courses.
The agencies processing citizenship applications in the city appears to be moving quicker to account for the influx. According to local immigration lawyers, citizenship applications are being processed in two to three months, much faster than had been reported in the past.