U.S. Conference of Mayors backs minimizing barriers to naturalization

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(1 vote, average 5.00 out of 5)

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. - PHOTO: Courtesy

The U.S. Conference of Mayors has voted this week to overwhelmingly pass a resolution urging U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and U.S. Department of Homeland Security to make policy changes that will increase the number of U.S. citizens from the pool of eligible lawful permanent residents.

The resolution emphasizes that it is in the interest of the federal government, especially USCIS, to minimize barriers to naturalization by reducing fees for citizenship applicants and “offering alternatives like a sliding-scale income based approach or family unit fee.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti introduced the resolution, which was co-sponsored by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and St. Louis Mayor Francis G. Slay.

The measure passed with the support of Wisconsin mayors Tom Barrett and John Dickert.

“Our country has always been a country of immigrants," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. "I stand with other mayors in support of this resolution which urges the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and U.S. Department of Homeland Security to make policy changes that will increase the number of U.S. Citizens in our cities. It is important to Milwaukee families, in particular to Hispanic Families, and respectful of people who contribute to our economy.”

Racine Mayor John Dickert said, "It's time we set aside the rhetoric and pass immigration reform.

The National Partnership for New Americans, of which Milwaukee-based Voces de la Frontera is a member, applauded the resolution and has been calling for the reduction in the cost of U.S. citizenship for millions of eligible New Americans for over three years.

"Wisconsin has 90,000 lawful permanent residents, and we should ensure that each of them have full opportunity to achieve their dreams of citizenship," said Freya Neumann-Ortiz, citizenship coordinator for Voces de la Frontera. "This resolution is a great step forward in recognizing the hopes and needs of these New Americans."

Since January 2012, NPNA has helped 29,560 immigrants across the country become U.S. citizens, saving $36,240,320 in legal fees and fee waivers. Each N‐400 application fee is $680 and legal fees, on average, cost each applicant $1,000.

A 2013 report released by NPNA and the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration found that high naturalization fees have priced out hardworking immigrants who wish to become citizens. The report shows that the citizenship fee has nearly tripled from $225 in 1999 to $680 in 2008. As fees have risen, applicants with less than a high school diploma have plummeted by more than half while there are 40 percent fewer Mexican immigrants applying for citizenship. In both cases, over half of these declines have occurred since a huge fee increase in 2007.