Better and worse cities for immigrants seeking US citizenship

Despite the efforts of pro-immigrant groups and the California authorities to encourage eligible immigrants to become national, a city in the golden state is the second in the country where fewer foreigners choose to complete this process, according to a new study.

The analysis "The best (and worst) cities for immigrants seeking US citizenship" from the Borderless Immigration Organization showed that Fresno, located in the center of California, occupies the second-lowest percentage across the country with regard to procedures for citizenship.

In 2017, Fresno had around 54,000 eligible immigrants to become naturalized citizens, but of them only 4.8% chose to become national.

Dallas, Texas, is at the top of the list of cities with the least eligible immigrants starting the naturalization process in 2017.

That is where 257,000 immigrants met the requirements to become national and only 11,597 (4.5%) made the request.

The third city is Phoenix, where only 5.5% of eligible immigrants have chosen to acquire citizenship.

The analysis, published yesterday in The Hill, revealed that the thresholds for immigrants to become citizens are increasing, including the national average processing time for a citizenship application, which has increased in more than 10 months in the last two years.

Xiao Wang, director and co-founder of Boundless Immigration, based in Seattle, told Efe today that it is clear that the legal immigration system is becoming much less efficient.

"The data does not lie: the gap is getting longer and the denial rates are increasing, so everyone who wants to see immigrants wants to be fully integrated in American society," Wang said.

The study found that the three offices of the Immigration and Citizenship Service (USCIS) that deal less efficiently with citizenship applications are located in St. Paul, Minnesota, with a maximum waiting time in the office of almost 2 years; Miami, Florida and Houston, Texas.

The report warns that part of the delays are due to the lack of USCIS offices in areas with a large eligible population.

While metropolitan areas of New York, Los Angeles and Miami have between 4 and 5 processing offices, some states (such as Illinois and Colorado) only have one office for all their cities.

Some areas with a significant population eligible for citizenship, such as Bakersfield (California), an hour from Fresno and a large influx of immigrants working in the countryside do not have local offices.

Although not thoroughly analyzed, the investigation showed that at USCIS offices in Orlando (FL), Imperial (CA), Omaha (NE) and Fort Myers (FL) the rejection of applications doubled the national average.

"What we hope for with this report is to highlight data and inequalities and to encourage discussions at local level between organizations and government agencies to better understand the reason for the data," Wang said.

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