Most Californians are on-board with federal legislation that would create a path to citizenship for the undocumented.
Maybe we're just being selfish. It turns out that naturalization, the process of going from immigrant to citizen, puts cash in our pockets, concludes a new report from the Center for Popular Democracy, the National Partnership for New Americans, and the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration at USC Dornsife.
If we naturalized folks who are eligible but who are dragging their feet, L.A. would see as much as a $3.3 billion economic impact and as much as $320 million in additional tax revenues over a 10-year span, the report's authors say. Holy frijole.
The researchers say that naturalization makes immigrants eligible to get better jobs and better pay, which in turn helps them spend more money in their communities: "These increased earnings will lead to additional economic activity," the report says.
L.A. immigrants can earn as much as an extra $3,659 a year, more than in New York or Chicago, by starting the citizenship process, the academics say in the paper:
Clearly, naturalization benefits immigrants: it provides full civil and political rights, protects against deportation, eases travel abroad, and provides full access to government jobs and assistance.
While opponents of a pathway to citizenship often paint south-of-the-border immigrants as a burden on taxpayer resources, the paper argues that folks who fully legalize their allegiance to the United States actually contribute to our tax base.
Of course, what they're talking about is "increased naturalization" "over the status quo," according to the report. It's all about potential.
Getting immigrants to naturalize would require some heavy lifting, though.
One barrier to naturalization is the cost, the authors say, which has risen from $225 in 2000 to $680 in 2008. The cheaper U.S. Green Card ($450) "sets up an incentive to continue to defer naturalization," the study says.
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SHOW ME HOW
The authors say more encouragement in cities like L.A. could go a long way toward seeing more folks naturalize. This week City Hall joined an effort, "Cities for Citizenship," to do just that.
Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy:
Cutting through the administrative and financial red tape of the naturalization process is an outgrowth of that leadership and will benefit millions of American families who have been excluded from the privileges of citizenship. We ask both city leadership and the immigrant community to join us in this initiative.