It’s Citizenship, Not Deportation Insurance

The Washington Examiner recently reported that 21 municipalities – most of them “sanctuary cities” – have pledged to make one million immigrants U.S. citizens this year. The organization spearheading this campaign, “Naturalize Now,” claims that it is already halfway to its goal, as over half a million people have already filed naturalization applications during the first half of this year. But the whole program is a perfect example of the way in which the open borders lobby – in its latest fit of Trump Derangement Syndrome – is attempting to redirect the immigration debate by deceiving the American public

Naturalize Now and its partner municipalities seem to be implying that they can short-circuit the Trump administration’s immigration efforts by simply turning aliens into citizens. They can’t. Municipalities do not have any power to confer citizenship on immigrants. Per the U.S. Constitution, only Congress has the authority to establish the rules for naturalization. And Congress, under the terms of the Immigration and Nationality Act, has placed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in charge of deciding naturalization applications. So, while city governments can set up legal aid clinics to assist foreigners in applying for citizenship, those cities play no part in determining who becomes a citizen.

Actually, Naturalize Now’s big thumb in the Trump administration’s eye is really big ole nothing burger, to borrow words from Hillary Clinton. In order to qualify for U.S. citizenship, aliens must be Lawful Permanent Residents, live in the U.S. for five years (or three years if married to a U.S. citizen), pay their taxes and not have any disqualifying criminal convictions. So, the illegal aliens and foreign criminals that sanctuary cities are trying to “protect” won’t be eligible for naturalization anyway.

It’s also unclear why Naturalize Now is claiming responsibility for the 500,000 naturalization applications already filed. Although Naturalize Now implies that a record number of immigrants have applied for citizenship because they are afraid of being deported by the Trump administration, the numbers don’t support that claim. Naturalization applications spiked at 1,382,993 in 2007, just before USCIS raised the fee for filing Form N-400 “Application for Naturalization.” Thereafter filings remained relatively consistent. USCIS currently receives between 700,000 and 900,000 citizenship applications each year. There is no indication that this year’s filings will vastly exceed that range.

The fact is, law abiding immigrants have nothing to fear from President Trump or the U.S. government. America has one of the most generous immigration systems in the world. And it offers one of the easiest, most clearly defined paths to citizenship. Naturalization is how patriotic new Americans cement their relationship with their adopted homeland. It’s a crying shame that Naturalize Now is advertising it as an insurance policy against deportation. No matter how hard they try, neither they, nor their sanctuary partners, can make it one.

About Author


Matthew J. O’Brien joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 2016. Matt is responsible for managing FAIR’s research activities. He also writes content for FAIR’s website and publications. Over the past twenty years he has held a wide variety of positions focusing on immigration issues, both in government and in the private sector. Immediately prior to joining FAIR Matt served as the Chief of the National Security Division (NSD) within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where he was responsible for formulating and implementing procedures to protect the legal immigration system from terrorists, foreign intelligence operatives, and other national security threats. He has also held positions as the Chief of the FDNS Policy and Program Development Unit, as the Chief of the FDNS EB-5 Division, as Assistant Chief Counsel with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, as a Senior Advisor to the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, and as a District Adjudications Officer with the legacy Immigration & Naturalization Service. In addition, Matt has extensive experience as a private bar attorney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law.


  1. avatar

    There are millions of green-card holders
    —Lawful Permanent Residents of the United States.
    Some have already been in this transitional status
    for more than the required five years.
    So it is entirely appropriate to encourage these individuals
    to apply to become official citizens of the USA.
    Once they are naturalized, they can no longer be deported
    even if they commit serious crimes after becoming American citizens.

    • avatar

      Not true. Depending on the nature of their crime if convicted and serve their sentence their citizenship can be revoked and then deported.

      • avatar

        Define “Nature of their Crime”

        Not really that is false; unless, got citizenship by fraud of any type or treason …to just become a criminal still a citizen….will go straight to jail.