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Why citizenship should be important to green card holders

Texas is one of the hot spots for the ongoing immigration debate, which has a renewed focus on a path to citizenship for those who enter the country illegally. New statistics show, however, that a growing percentage of immigrants may not even be interested in pursuing citizenship or naturalization. In fact, out of nearly 1 million people in Texas who were eligible to naturalize in 2012, only 58,000 did so. Nationwide, about two-thirds of immigrants are eligible for naturalization. So, where is the system breaking down?

Experts say that there is a growing number of legal permanent residents who are eligible for naturalization; that number has increased dramatically since 2010. However, that population is not being tapped, according to nonprofit administrators familiar with the situation. Some experts are blaming the movement away from naturalization on a lack of civic knowledge, previous criminal convictions and a $680 processing fee that can be overwhelming for some low-income residents.

Individuals who are interested in naturalization must be at least 18 years old and have legal permanent resident status. They must also have lived in the U.S. for five continuous years -- three years if they are married to an American citizen. A fundamental knowledge of English and a basic understanding of U.S. government and history are also required.

Immigrants may not realize the benefits that come along with acquiring citizenship. Not only are they now permitted to vote, but they are also protected from deportation and able to travel and live overseas without losing their U.S. citizenship. Further, it gives them more power to petition for citizenship for their kids and other immediate family members. The legal credibility that comes along with citizenship should be considered a major motivating factor for many current illegal immigrants.

Source: New America Media, "In Texas, a Fraction of Eligible Immigrants Get Naturalized" Anthony Advincula, Aug. 05, 2014

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