Citizenship applications for fiscal year 2017 are on track to surpass last year’s total, bucking a historical trend where typically petitions for naturalization fall in the year after a presidential election.
In the run-up to the 2016 election, a surge of legal permanent residents submitted applications in the hope they would be approved in time to vote. In many cases, Latino groups and labor unions such as the Service Employees International Union organized naturalization drives for the explicit purpose of creating more eligible voters to cast ballots against Donald Trump.
In the wake of Trump’s victory, the wave of citizenship applications has not subsided. In fact, this year is the first time in two decades that the volume of applications has not fallen after a presidential election, reports The New York Times.
Over the first three quarters of fiscal year 2017 — Oct. 1, 2016 through June 30 — 783,330 people filed applications. That is about 8 percent more than the 725,825 applications submitted in the same period in fiscal year 2016. If the pace of applications holds for the final quarter of fiscal year 2017, the whole-year total will easily surpass the 971,242 applications filed for all of fiscal year 2016.
Some immigration advocacy groups say the Trump administration’s tough enforcement policies have created a sense of urgency among green card holders to apply for naturalization. Gaining citizenship gives immigrants protection from deportation if they are convicted of a crime and also confers eligibility for federal benefits and jobs not open to non-citizens.
Emily Gelbaum, the chief of staff at the National Partnership for New Americans, told the NYT that “anti-immigrant” measures by the Trump administration and some states such as Texas likely are likely sustained interest in naturalization.
“We’ve seen anti-immigrant legislation motivate eligible immigrants to naturalize and now we’re seeing this again at both the state and national level,” she said.
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