Celebrating Mother’s Day: Mamá, Ciudadana, y Votante

By: Laura Vazquez, Director of Immigrant Integration, and Gary Sang, Immigrant Integration Program Manager

As Mother’s Day approaches, it’s a time to celebrate the incredible women who have shaped our lives. It is also an opportunity to recognize and honor the journeys of immigrant mothers who have made the United States their home. Mothers who have become U.S. citizens enrich our nation in many ways, including through active civic engagement. Mamás are often motivated to apply for citizenship in hopes of positively shaping their children’s future.

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In Fiscal Year (FY) 2023, 878,500 immigrants became naturalized citizens, following FY 2022 when over 1 million immigrants became U.S. citizens. Among the naturalized citizens in FY 2023, women made up nearly 55%, and they were the majority in every age group.

Across the United States, 9.7 million lawful permanent residents (LPRs) are likely currently eligible to become U.S. citizens, yet only about 10 percent of the eligible population naturalize each year. U.S. citizenship opens doors to a myriad of opportunities, such as the right to vote, and fosters a deeper sense of belonging and civic responsibility. Naturalization is also linked to positive economic outcomes for immigrants who become citizens, including higher earnings, increased homeownership rates and reduced levels of poverty.1 As we see with UnidosUS Affiliates who provide citizenship application assistance, mothers who become U.S. citizens often gain increased access to educational and employment opportunities, opening pathways for a promising future for themselves and their families.

The United States as a whole also gains significant benefits when eligible immigrants become citizens. Naturalized citizens can vote in public elections, participate in jury duty and run for elective offices where citizenship is required. In addition to increased civic participation, our economy benefits when naturalized citizens contribute to greater city, state and federal revenues.2

The Power of Naturalized Citizens in American Democracy

Naturalized citizens play a significant role in American democracy, contributing to the diverse tapestry of our nation’s electorate. Since the 2020 presidential election, nearly 3 million eligible permanent residents have become U.S. citizens.3 Furthermore, over 23 million naturalized citizens are eligible to vote in the United States, representing a powerful and growing segment of the electorate.4 Naturalized citizens form a substantial voting bloc, with their voting power being particularly influential in key swing states that often determine the outcome of national elections.5 In pivotal battleground states like Georgia, Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania, the Latino vote has emerged as a decisive force in shaping electoral outcomes.6

Apply for Naturalization Today

For LPRs who are eligible to naturalize, Mother’s Day serves as an exciting reminder to apply for naturalization. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has made efforts to reach the eligible population and promote the naturalization process. One such example is the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program, which offers competitive grants to immigrant-serving organizations for providing citizenship instructions and application preparation assistance. Since 2009, the program has assisted an estimated 300,000 LPRs prepare for citizenship.7

Moreover, through USCIS’s revised fee rule that went into effect on April 1, 2024, USCIS implemented a lower naturalization fee for applicants with a household income between 150 and 400 percent of the federal poverty guideline (FPG), making the reduced fee of $380 more accessible to a broader range of individuals.8 This positive change for middle and low-income immigrants benefits approximately 1.8 million lawful permanent residents who are eligible to naturalize.9

In Celebration, Recognition and Inspiration

The journey of naturalization is a testament to immigrant mothers and their unwavering commitment to building a brighter future for themselves and their families. Their stories are something to celebrate and honor — an inspiration for immigrants hoping to embark on the transformative path to citizenship. On this Mother’s Day, we celebrate the resilience and determination of immigrant mothers who have embarked on the path to citizenship. Their stories of sacrifice, perseverance and triumph inspire us all. ¡Feliz Día De La Madre, mamá, ciudadana y votante!

 

 

1 María E. Enchautegui and Linda Giannarelli. “The Economic Impact of Naturalization on Immigrants and Cities,” Urban Institute, 2015, https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/76241/2000549-The-Economic-Impact-of-Naturalization-on-Immigrants-and-Cities.pdf (hereinafter, “Enchautegui and Giannarelli, 2015”). Manuel Pastor and Justin Scoggins, “Citizen Gain: The Economic Benefits of Naturalization for Immigrants and the Economy,” Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration, University of Southern California, December 2012, https://dornsife.usc.edu/eri/publications/citizen-gain/ (hereinafter, “Pastor and Scoggins, 2012”); Heidi Shierholz, “The Effects of Citizenship on Family Income and Poverty,” Briefing Paper, Economic Policy Institute, February 24, 2010, https://www.epi.org/publication/bp256/

2 Enchautegui and Giannarelli, 2015.

3 According to USCIS’ annual reports, USCIS naturalized 855,000 new U.S. citizens, including derivatives in Fiscal Year 2021; 1,023,200 new U.S. citizens, including derivatives in Fiscal Year 2022; and 883,900 new U.S. citizens, including derivatives in Fiscal Year 2023. According to USCIS’ quarterly reports on naturalization, USCIS naturalized 178,997 new U.S. citizens in the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2024.

4 Abby Budiman, Luis Noe-Bustamante, and Mark Hugo Lopez. “Naturalized Citizens Make Up Record One-in-Ten U.S. Eligible Voters in 2020,” Pew Research Center, February 2020, https://www.pewresearch.org/hispanic/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2020/02/GMD_2020.02.26_Immigrant-Eligible-Voters.pdf (hereinafter, “Budiman, Noe-Bustamente, Hugo Lopez, 2020”);

5 Wong, Lu, Amirjavadi, 2022

6 Wong, Lu, Amirjavadi, 2022

7 “Learn More About the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program”. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. https://www.uscis.gov/citizenship/civic-integration/learn-about-the-citizenship-and-integration-grant-program

8 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Fee Schedule and Changes to Certain Other Immigration Fees. 89 FR 6194. January 31, 2024. https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2024/01/31/2024-01427/us-citizenship-and-immigration-services-fee-schedule-and-changes-to-certain-other-immigration

9 Ramya Reddy, Manuel Pastor, Justin Scoggins, and Thai V. Le. Naturalize Now: Economic Equity and the Path to Naturalization. USC Dornsife Equity Research Institute, April 2024. https://dornsife.usc.edu/eri/publications/naturalize-now-economic-equity-and-the-path-to-naturalization/