Original URL: http://regulus.azstarnet.com/hourlyupdate/story.php?id=3

Immigrants in Arizona less likely to become citizens, study shows
The Associated Press
September 17, 2003

PHOENIX — Compared to the rest of the nation, Arizona immigrants are less likely to become U.S. citizens, but the percentage of those taking citizenship oaths here is the highest among border states, a study has found.

The study was conducted by the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan organization based in Washington D.C., and found that 55 percent of eligible immigrants in Arizona had become U.S. citizens, compared with 58 percent nationally.

However, Arizona had higher citizenship rates than California, Texas and New Mexico.

Most of Arizona’s immigrants come from Mexico.

Mexican immigrants have historically had among the lowest citizenship rates of any ethnic group, said Jeffrey Passel, a demographer who co-wrote the Urban Institute report.

“A lot of immigrants from Mexico don’t want to naturalize because they think they may go home, and many of them do,” Passel said.

Lower levels of education and limited English among Mexican immigrants also play a role, said Passel, adding that expanded language programs and civics instruction could help.

There are 223,000 naturalized immigrants in Arizona but an additional 183,000 immigrants here are eligible for naturalization, the seventh-highest number of any state, the report found.

An additional 36,000 legal immigrants will be eligible for citizenship within five years, the report said.

Louis Olivas is an assistant vice president of academic affairs at Arizona State University and studies demographic trends.

Olivas is troubled because their lack of citizenship removes key forms of societal participation that helps to anchor new arrivals.

“They are prevented from voting. They are prevented from holding public office,” he said. “So that’s a challenge because in the long run when they become naturalized citizens, there is a stability that comes with it.”