Mexico and Central America – Figures published by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) show that 231,815 Mexicans became US citizens last year – 90 percent more than in 2007.
NALEO, whose goal is to encourage Hispanic participation in civic affairs, told El Universal that of the million immigrants who became US citizens last year, almost half – 461,317 – were of Latin American origin. That figure was 58 percent higher than in 2007.
The number of new citizens from El Salvador and Guatemala leapt by 109 percent and from Nicaragua by 120 percent, with most reporting their place of residence as California or Florida.
NALEO estimates that a further 4-5 million Latin Americans are entitled to claim citizenship but have not yet done so. If the comprehensive immigration reform promised by President Obama in his campaign becomes reality this year, the number of Latin Americans taking US citizenship is predicted by some to skyrocket over the next ten years.
This prediction may be wide of the mark, though. The price of applying for citizenship is scheduled to double to US$700 in the coming months and, in the present economic situation, this could put it beyond the reach of many.
Primitivo Rodriguez, a researcher at Mexico’s National Autonomous University, told Telesur that “the economic crisis has hit Latinos more than any other sector of the American population, and, inside the Latino community, the hardest hit are the illegal immigrants”.
Milenio reported that at the beginning of this month Mexico's Foreign Minister, Patricia Espinosa, and the head of the US Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, signed an agreement in Mexico City to set up a “high-level group on migration” intended to allow the governments of both countries to address the issue more effectively.
The group will discuss and propose policies in areas such as simplified immigration procedures, protection of immigrants’ rights, repatriation procedures, and explanations for would-be immigrants on the dangers of crossing the border illegally.