Immigrants not applying for U.S. citizenship

An article in the Arizona Daily Star newspaper pointed out that there is a gulf between what legal immigrants say about applying for U.S. citizenship and what the data show is the actual case.

“More than 93 percent of Hispanic immigrants who are in this country illegally say they want to apply for citizenship, but fewer than half … who can apply do so, according to research by the Pew Hispanic Center. A June study by the center found that only 46 percent of Hispanic immigrants eligible to become citizens have applied, compared to 71 percent of immigrants who are not Hispanic.”

Why? According to the news article, “Experts said they are not surprised by the numbers, noting that many people are not applying because the application process is costly and cumbersome.”

That explanation is intended to evoke concern for the poor immigrants deterred by tough citizenship tests and high fees. But it ignores an even more obvious explanation. If you were an immigrant in a foreign country and someone asked you – the person asking might even represent the government – whether you were interested in becoming a citizen of that country in which you were living, would you likely say “No”?

Especially if you come from a hierarchical society, you are likely to answer a question like the one on interest in becoming a citizen the way that you think will please the questioner.

About Author


Jack, who joined FAIR’s National Board of Advisors in 2017, is a retired U.S. diplomat with consular experience. He has testified before the U.S. Congress, U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform and has authored studies of immigration issues. His national and international print, TV, and talk radio experience is extensive (including in Spanish).


  1. avatar

    You are correct in pointing out the circumstances in which they are asked. Immigrants would of course like to become citizens. In addition to fees, some immigrants still fear the process and don’t have proper knowledge of what it would entail.

  2. avatar

    That explanation is intended to evoke concern for the poor immigrants deterred by tough citizenship tests and high fees.
    ———————Yet all immigrants face those same citizenship tests and high fees, so just why are they so daunting for Hispanics? Could it be that Hispanics, even legal immigrants, tend to be less educated and poorer than other immigrants? Or are they simply less motivated than other immigrants? In either case, well, it’s a poor argument for amnesty and increased immigration from Latin America.

    • avatar
      John Winthropp on

      did you know that the 2nd largest demographics of illegals are Asians?………………………..also speak for yourself…most legal immigrants have a higher education than our own children because their education system is better…..I see these in our universities needless to say we have great high schools to match that but it costs big money and only the few do it……….Ali you should this really well….I am sure it is the same wherever you come from …