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Antonio Francis

Mrs. Jackie Burr, Instructor

English 2010

28 March 2017

The Struggle to Reach Citizenship

The process of becoming a citizen in the US has started since 1776 when the Declaration

of Independence was made, which stopped King George III from barring the naturalization of

new settlers within the colonies. (LA Times) Ever since that time, laws have come and gone

relating to the best process in which foreigners can obtain citizenship in the United States.

Legislation led to Ellis Island becoming the first immigration station for immigrants instituted by

President Harrison in 1892 where it is still used today as a ceremonial place when others become

citizens and leading to many stations becoming established. Government officials and the public

have had differing views on immigration reform throughout the years leading to discussions

about what is the best way to help immigrants in their search for a new life. Much of these

perspectives relate to benefits that can help the country as a whole but, as with any decision there

can also be costs.

Having the chance to speak with an immigrant from Fiji who had experience with this

process brought greater insight to what its like on the other side. Kali Nair, father of two who

came in 1985, remembers as clear as day the process in which it took to come to the US. Kalis

sister was first in their family that moved to the United States and was seeking more

opportunities than the ones that was provided for her in Fiji. Once becoming a citizen in the late

1970s, she sponsored the siblings who also wanted to live in the US. A fee for each sibling was
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paid to the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) as an Immigrant Fee is required

and proof that those traveling over will have a set plan ready for them from Kalis sister once

they arrived in California was needed. A green card was ready to be sent but it wasnt until

roughly five and a half years that all the paperwork was settled for Kali, his wife Pushpa, and

their two daughters to travel to California and begin their new life. The process to come to this

country was somewhat difficult and very long. Looking back I would have done it all over

again. (Nair) Since then Kali and Pushpa has seven grandchildren and are happily living in

California close to their daughters. This process is just one way someone can come into this


There are a few ways in which becoming a citizen can be accessed. One way is to have a

child born on United States soil. Once the child is born those parents are tied with that child and

are also considered citizens. Someone who marries a citizen can also have their wait time in

starting the naturalization process reduced from five years to three years. The most formal way

someone can become a citizen is what is known as the Naturalization process. The steps include

already being a permanent resident of the US such as having a green card, being at least 18 years

old, and being a permanent resident for at least 5 years. There are also other steps needed such as

having a basic knowledge of reading, writing, speaking, and understanding English as well as to

have a basic knowledge of US history, laws, and government. After all these steps have been

taken one must take the naturalization test and pass. After this lengthy process you take an oath

of allegiance to the United States and officially become a citizen of this nation. (USCIS)

Due to the numerous steps and large amount of years it takes to accomplish this award of

citizenship many are skeptical if this is the best way in becoming a member of the United States
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of America. This arduous process, many say, is a reason why many enter this country illegally.

These perspectives create a discussion as to what could enhance the process to not make it seem

so daunting yet still sustain the security of background checks and other precautions.

A perspective wanting to reform the naturalization process is the cost of the citizenship

application. The National Immigration Forum Staff states that reforming the USCIS fee structure

will help immigrants of lower incomes. In the last 20 years, the cost of naturalization has gone

up more than 650%. Annualized, that is more than 32% per yearcompared to an annual rate of

inflation of about 5.5% over the same period. Though the application fee is highly priced at

$725 right now, the amount is slowly rising and will continue to rise unless changes are to be

made. Immigrant service providers say that this is a big obstacle to immigrants and that the

demand for citizenship is high but a portion of the immigrants are waiting until they find the

means to come up with the money. The reasoning behind this increase in amount is because of

the process of refugees. Refugees are not in need of a naturalization application but their

paperwork still needs to be processed. Congress as of now does not give money to the USCIS to

process the refugees paperwork so they have to increase fee charges to make up for the loss in

money. Congress also gives only partial money for the use of security and background checks

which adds to the burden put upon the USCIS. The National Immigration Forum Staff goes on to

say that a way the government could fix this problem is by distributing the costs for security and

refugees more broadly. The government should also pay for the cost of processing the

applications even though they have deemed them free.

Integration policies are also a major component when looking to reform the naturalization

process. Mary Giovagnoli, director of the Immigration Policy Center, states that, Consequently,
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in order to focus on ways to improve the naturalization process itself, we must take a step back

and consider the nature of immigrant integration in the United States. The better our integration

policiesand the sooner they beginthe more likely we are to improve the rate of

naturalization. The rationale behind the integration reform is that if there is more rigorous

requirements there must be an assurance that the new

members of society will have the tools to succeed in

their endeavours. If improvement is seen in helping

those newly made citizens come into the country then

it will make it easier to address other problems

relating to immigration reform. Having better

integration laws will show immigrants working on

their naturalization that there can be a smooth


Figure 1. Statistics relating to the integration of immigrants

Another perspective that is almost contradictory to much of the perspectives relating to

how the process should have more ease, some may say there is a need for stricter laws when

dealing with the naturalization of immigrants. Natalia Banulescu-Bogdan briefly talked about
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this particular matter stating that some believe, Conversely, if the conditions are too lenient, the

process may not properly "signal" the importance of integration, and offers little incentive for

newcomers to adapt. In order for immigrants to have incentive and motive to move to this

country they must meet a large set of requirements to enter the nation. To become a member of

this nation it should feel as a privilege and a challenge to earn a better life.

Others feel that stricter laws are almost contradictory and hypocritical. Those who are

born here and have had multiple generations living in the United States do not need to follow the

same process. Certain citizens believe that if naturally born citizens do not have to adhere to the

same requirements lawmakers shouldnt ask for harsher laws. That is why it is a requirement

now for high school seniors must pass a similar exam that immigrants are required to take before

receiving citizenship.

The naturalization process has been changing almost yearly with new perspectives

coming to light and legislatures wanting to see change in how much effort is needed when

becoming a citizen of the United States. Some reaching for harsher laws to make it difficult for

people to come into the land of the free and home of the brave. Others wanting to reform the

naturalization process are wanting to create a more efficient program that is more lenient yet still

holds true to security and background checks. As there is a continuing effort to strive for a better

naturalization process one must see all the perspectives and research thoroughly the best way

these future citizens can create a new life for themselves as well as their family.
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Works Cited

"A History of U.S. Citizenship." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 04 July 1997. Web. 27

Mar. 2017.

Banulescu-Bogdan, Natalia. "Shaping Citizenship Policies to Strengthen Immigrant

Integration." N.p., 02 Aug. 2012. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.

Citizenship News. "Reforming the Naturalization Process." Citizenship News. N.p., 18 Aug.

2011. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.

Giovagnoli, Mary. "Improving the Naturalization Process." IMPROVING THE

NATURALIZATION PROCESS (n.d.): n. pag. American Immigration Council. Sept.

2011. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.

Levenson, Eric. "Reborn in the USA: Inside a Citizenship Ceremony." CNN. Cable News

Network, 17 Feb. 2017. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.

Nair, Kali. Telephone interview. 29 Mar. 2017

National Immigration Forum Staff. "Policy Papers." National Immigration Forum Making the

Naturalization Process Less Daunting by Reforming the USCIS Fee Structure Comments.

N.p., 22 Sept. 2011. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.

UCIS. I Am a U.S. Citizen: How Do I Help My Relative Become a U.S. Permanent Resident?

Washington, D.C.: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 2013.US Citizenship and

Immigration Services. Oct. 2013. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.

USCIS. "Pathway to Citizenship." Crafting Citizenship (n.d.): n. pag. Sept. 2016.

Web. 27 Mar. 2017.