With Legal Aid, Immigrant Advocates Turn Focus to Citizenship

Liz Robbins, New York Times, November 27, 2015

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With anti-immigrant sentiment soaring among Republican presidential candidates, and immigration reform stalled in Congress and the courts, New York advocacy groups, with the support of the Obama administration, are redoubling their efforts in one area they can control: citizenship. They are pushing to convert as many of the country’s 8.8 million green card holders as possible into naturalized Americans.

The influence of the Latino voting bloc has added impetus to the drive. According to Latino Decisions, a polling and research firm, 80 percent of naturalized Latino citizens voted for President Obama in 2012. In New York State, there are approximately 915,000 legal permanent residents, more than 317,400 of whom are Latino, according to the Center for Migration Studies.

Nationally, nearly a third of legal permanent residents eligible to become citizens are Mexicans, a particular target of Mr. Trump, a Republican presidential candidate who has accused them of bringing drugs and crime into the United States and of being rapists.

This month, there were 14 citizenship events across the city compared with the usual eight, according to local advocacy groups. The events were held at college campuses, union headquarters, libraries, hospitals and the offices of community organizations in Hispanic and Asian neighborhoods. {snip}

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In addition to supporting registration drives, the government appears to have sped up the processing time for applications in New York City, according to several immigration lawyers. Those applications, the lawyers said, were being processed in two to three months, less than the national average of five months and faster than the six to 12 months it took just four years ago.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services said it could not confirm the accelerated application times in New York, but it did describe how, since September, it had expanded programs to promote citizenship, including online test preparation materials and the option to pay the $680 fee by credit card.

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