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America the Beautiful: Number of New Citizens at 15-Year High

America the Beautiful - Number of New Citizens at 15-Year High

As pandemic restrictions ease, more immigrants are participating in public naturalization ceremonies to formalize the last step of the citizenship process. These ceremonies are often highly emotional, as they symbolize the last step in a years-long journey for countless Americans. According to recent data, naturalizations are on the rise, reflecting a large population trend for immigration growth in the United States. With this demographic shift, some are discussing the political effects of these trends and what they mean for the American political landscape for years to come. 

Pew Research Study Shows Increasing Naturalization Rates

According to the study, more than 900,000 immigrants formally naturalized (became United States citizens) in 2022. This figure is the third highest on record, and the highest for any fiscal year since 2008. The increase in naturalizations reflects a rebound following restrictive Trump-era policy as well as an easing of COVID-era restrictions. The figure could potentially have been even larger, as the current backlog for naturalization applications is an astounding 670,000.

An immigrant who demonstrates continuous lawful permanent residence for at least five years, or three if married to a United States citizen, is eligible to apply for citizenship. To be approved, the applicant must pass background checks, submit supporting documentation, and pass English tests, to name a few requirements. 

Biden Administration Seeks to Streamline Naturalization Process

In response to the large backlog, the Biden administration has taken many steps to reduce the wait times for those awaiting naturalization. These steps include simplified forms and redistributing interviews to allow for greater efficiency in processing times. Additionally, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) recently announced it will soon conduct a trial of a new form of citizenship test for naturalization candidates. The test will assess English proficiency in a new manner, using ordinary English.

USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou recently remarked that “it is good for the nation for people to join it in the fullest way that they can. That has been a priority since the beginning of the administration.”

Demographic Trends Produce Political Results?

In a recent New York Times article, Miriam Jordan addressed the impact of the recent immigration trends. She noted that Trump-era policies to curb all forms of immigration, including legal immigration, may have backfired, alienating over a million soon-to-be citizens from the Republican Party. Meanwhile, the Biden administration has made every effort possible to win over these new voters and welcome them as citizens to this country as quickly as possible. 

To accommodate the large number of naturalizations, USCIS has begun holding naturalization ceremonies in large venues. On Dec. 7, 2022, the Wintrust Arena in Chicago hosted one such event for nearly 2,000 immigrants. It remains to be seen which party will win over this new slate of voters. One thing is certain, though – there are lots of new voters to impress. 

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