Higher fees have led to a sharp decline in the number of people applying for citizenship, according to a report released by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) today. The proof is in the numbers, said ICIRR executive director Joshua Hoyt (...
Higher fees have led to a sharp decline in the number of people applying for citizenship, according to a report released by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) today.
The proof is in the numbers, said ICIRR executive director Joshua Hoyt (right) at a press conference this morning. He pointed out that the number of citizenship applications fielded by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has, on average, dwindled by more than 50 percent during the first six months of this year when compared with the same period in 2007.
During the three years prior to 2007, there was actually an uptick in the number of people seeking citizenship in Illinois. Perhaps that's because the state has been a leader in crafting immigrant-friendly policies, like the New Americans Initiative, as was pointed out in a report by the Progressive States Network (PSN). Asked yesterday about the group's research, PSN policy director Nathan Newman told us: "It seems that [Illinois officials] aren't so far from remembering where their grandparents came from."
For starters, ICIRR is calling on the federal government to scale back the current citizenship application fee of $655 a person. They want to see the fee set at $200 a person, which is the equivalent of a week's pay at the federal minimum wage. (To put in context, the fee was only $225 when Bush took office less than eight years ago).
"Citizenship shouldn't be only for the rich and the educated," said Flavia Jimenez, who authored the ICIRR report.
More money also needs to be set aside for classes that prepare future citizens for the tougher citizenship exam that's set to go into circulation in October, Hoyt said.
He further stated that it's about time that Congress began catching up with the Land of Lincoln. While Illinois and other states with large immigrant populations have made progress in opening the door to education, health care for immigrants, Hoyt said that regressive federal policies -- such as citizenship fee increases -- have "paralyzed immigration reform."