Demographic Shift in New Citizens

Derek Kravitz, Wall Street Journal, July 2, 2013

A brief naturalization ceremony Tuesday for newly minted U.S. citizens in downtown Manhattan made clear the shifting demographics of those migrating here: Dominicans are leading the pack.

Nationwide, the Dominican Republic and Cuba have experienced the largest percentage growth in U.S. naturalized immigration over the past two years, according to federal statistics. That is partly because of a recession-era decline in immigrants from Mexico, China and India and a pickup in the processing of backlogged or delayed applications from some Hispanic countries.


More than 763,000 people were naturalized last fiscal year, with the New York City metro area accounting for more than 16% of the total.

By far the largest group at the Manhattan ceremony were those from the Dominican Republic. When an announcer listed off the applicants’ home countries, he was forced to stop when he reached “the DR.” More than half the room stood up and cheered. “We always have a big crowd from the Dominican Republic and it’s only gotten bigger,” said Michael Borgen, the deputy district director of the federal immigration office that oversees 14 New York counties, including New York City.


Federal officials say they have suspected an increase in both green card and naturalization applications can be traced to the immigration reform bill now inching through Congress, a proposal which would grant citizenship to some 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Mariel Martinez, a 21-year-old nursing student who lives in Washington Heights, came to the U.S. with her parents, both undocumented immigrants, when she was 7 years old. After accepting her naturalization diploma Tuesday, she sighed with relief about “no longer fearing being deported” but said her parents, who are struggling to grasp English, are increasingly worried. “They’re having a hard time, and we don’t know what will happen,” she said.

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