Following a change in administrations and a slew of government and nongovernmental initiatives encouraging naturalization, more than 967,000 immigrants became Americans on paper during the 2022 fiscal year, marking one of the highest rates in U.S. history. Only 1996 and 2008 ranked higher, CBS News reports.
"It is good for the nation for people to fully become part of this nation, join it in the fullest way that they can," U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Ur Jaddou said in recent remarks reported by CBS News. Here at Daily Kos we documented the sledgehammer that the previous administration took to the agency, which adjudicates immigration paperwork.
Jaddou said encouraging naturalization “has been a priority since the beginning of this administration and we're going to continue the focus on ensuring that people who wish to become Americans, can be."
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“In the 12-month period that ended Sept. 30, 967,400 adults swore the oath of allegiance at naturalization ceremonies across the country, the USCIS figures show,” CBS News said. “When taking into account cases of children who derived citizenship from their U.S.-citizen parents and other naturalization cases, a total of 1,023,200 immigrants became U.S. citizens in fiscal year 2022.”
Only two other years in U.S. history have topped fiscal year 2022’s tally, when more than 1,040,000 immigrants were naturalized in 1996 and 2008, the report said.
USCIS has for quite some time been struggling with a backlog that has resulted in years-long wait for many immigrants. USCIS said in its 2022 progress report that thanks in part to “crucial appropriations from Congress,” the new naturalizations represent “a 62 percent reduction in the net backlog of naturalization applications ... from the end of FY 2021 to FY 2022, and the highest number of naturalized citizens in almost 15 years.”
As many as 10 million have been eligible for U.S. citizenship as of last year, but have been stifled by barriers including high application fees and lack of access to legal services that would help them in their application process. The Biden administration last summer announced an unprecedented, whole-of-government push to reach eligible immigrants, bringing in federal agencies ranging from the Postal Service to the National Park Service.
The administration released the plan as the president hosted a naturalization ceremony where he welcomed nearly two dozen new Americans.
“You have each come to America from different circumstances and different reasons and 16 different nationalities,” he said at the time. “But like previous generations of immigrants, there is one trait you all share in common: courage. It takes courage to get up and leave everything you know and go to another place, no matter where it is.”
Organizations that have been steadily working through public education events and Congressional advocacy to increase naturalizations applauded the historic fiscal year 2022 numbers.
“This work is not ours alone, but this campaign demonstrated a vision of what is possible,” Nicole Melaku, executive director of the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA), said in a statement received by Daily Kos. “We call on USCIS to further expand access to citizenship by reducing barriers, including in the upcoming fee schedule rule, and continue making significant reductions to the backlog of citizenship applications.”
Heading into the 2022 midterms, organizations said that new citizens in battleground states like Pennsylvania had the potential to determine the results of key races, including the U.S. Senate race between John Fetterman and long-time New Jersey resident Mehmet Oz. Fetterman won, thankfully.
“The 2022 midterms were actually my first time voting,” NPNA universal representation field manager and new citizen Laila Martín García said in the release. “Choosing to vote is among the most powerful expressions of fully belonging to the community I am part of. My home state of Pennsylvania was one of the most critical states during the November 2022 midterm elections, and new American voters like myself swayed the outcome.”
She said that not only was she able to vote, but “was also able to support other new American voters, like myself, to make their voices heard.”
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