For Immediate Release
April 6, 2009

Contact: Eric Wagner (213) 747-7606, ext. 4427
Email: ewagner@naleo.org



LATINOS PURSUING DREAM OF U.S. CITIZENSHIP
HELP SET NATURALIZATION RECORD IN 2008

     Dramatic increase in Latino naturalized citizens reflects success of ya es hora campaign

LOS ANGELES -  Latino newcomers seeking to become new Americans helped contribute to a record
number of naturalizations in FY 2008, according to a report recently released by the Department of
Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics (OIS). An analysis of OIS data by the National
Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund reveals that nearly
one out of two (44%) of the nation’s 1,046,539 new U.S. citizens was Latino.

According to the NALEO Educational Fund analysis, 461,317 Latino legal permanent residents became
U.S. citizens in FY 2008, the largest number of Latino naturalizations in recent history. While the total
number of naturalizations increased by 58% between FY 2007 and 2008, the number of Latino
naturalizations nearly doubled during the same period, growing by 95%. In addition, the share of Latino
naturalized citizens has increased significantly in the last five years, from 27% in 2003, to 30% in 2006,
to 44% in 2008.

According to NALEO Educational Fund Executive Director, Arturo Vargas, “In 2007, thousands of
Latino newcomers applied for U.S. citizenship, because they wanted to make their voices heard in our
nation’s democracy. The historic Ya es hora ¡Ciudadanía! (It is time – Citizenship!) civic engagement
campaign helped contribute to this dramatic increase by educating Latinos about the opportunities of
U.S. citizenship and assisting them with the naturalization process. The Ya es hora ¡Ciudadanía!
campaign involved an unprecedented collaboration between Spanish-language media partners Entravision
Communications, impreMedia, and Univision Communications Inc., national partners National Council
of La Raza, and Service Employees International Union, and hundreds of community organizations,
businesses, and public and private agencies. This effort led to a record number of newcomers realizing
their dream of U.S. citizenship in 2008.”

Mexico was the leading country of birth of persons naturalizing in 2008 (231,815), and one out five new
U.S. citizens was from Mexico (22%). The number of Mexican-born naturalized citizens increased by
90% between FY 2007 and FY 2008, while the number of new citizens from Cuba, El Salvador,
Nicaragua, and Guatemala more than doubled during the same period. The following table sets forth
information about the top 10 nations of birth for Latino naturalized citizens in 2008.  



Mr. Vargas continued, “Despite the record number of naturalizations, there are still millions of eligible
legal permanent residents who have not yet applied for U.S. citizenship or who encounter barriers in the
naturalization process. We urge President Obama, Congress and the United States Citizenship and
Immigration Services (USCIS) to make fundamental changes in the system of financing immigration
services so that we prevent exorbitant increases in naturalization fees. In addition, the USCIS must work
to ensure that there is fair and effective implementation of the new naturalization exam, which all
applicants must take starting October 1.”


Mr. Vargas concluded, “Latinos who naturalize are eager to demonstrate their commitment to America by
becoming full participants in our nation’s civic life. If our democracy is to remain strong and vital, we
must ensure that naturalization is affordable and accessible to all eligible newcomers.”


 


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About NALEO Educational Fund

The NALEO Educational Fund is the nation's leading non-profit organization that facilitates the full participation of Latinos in the American political process, from citizenship to public service.