On National Citizenship Day, Immigration Debate Spurs Some Latinos to Seek Citizenship


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There are 8.8 million legal permanent residents eligible for citizenship, according to government figures.  In the case of Latinos, a Pew Hispanic report found that only 46 percent of Latino immigrants who are eligible to become citizens have taken the step, compared to 71 percent of non-Latino legal immigrants.  Among Mexican-Americans, only 36 percent have naturalized.
On Tuesday – National Citizenship Day – groups and immigration advocates around the country urged Latinos who are eligible to become citizens, and pledged to help make it happen. One of them was Marizza Contreras, who became a citizen after receiving help from the Bethlehem Project, a program that partners businesses and local service providers to provide citizenship-eligible employees with low-cost or free citizenship assistance.
“I came to the United States in 2000. During all this time, I didn’t [apply for] citizenship due to procrastination. I kept putting it off because it was too much money and I couldn’t find the time,” said Contreras at a press conference in Washington, D.C. sponsored by the New Americans Campaign.  “I was in the process of hiring a lawyer when the Betsy Hotel (in Miami, Florida) presented this wonderful opportunity to work with the Bethlehem Project. Thank you to the Betsy Hotel for making this opportunity available to me,” she said.
Yet despite the efforts associated with pursuing citizenship, the immigration debate might be steering some Latinos to reconsider just remaining as legal residents.
In the gargantuan House district represented by Democratic Rep. Pete Gallego of Texas there are large numbers of people who are legal residents of the U.S., but have not applied for citizenship.
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