Putting Americans First: A Statistical Case for Encouraging Rather than Impeding and Devaluing US Citizenship

Donald Kerwin and Robert Warren
Date of Publication: 
December, 2019
Source Organization: 
Center for Migration Studies

The Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS) released a report finding that the well-being of immigrants and their contributions to the United States increase as they advance to more permanent and secure immigration statuses, culminating in naturalization. The report finds that naturalized citizens match or exceed the native-born by key metrics, including: college degrees (35% vs. 29%); percent employed (96% vs. 95%); and average personal income ($45,600 vs. $40,600).

The report – authored by CMS Executive Director Donald Kerwin and CMS Senior Visiting Fellow Robert Warren – argues that the administration’s “America first” ideology obscures a far-reaching set of policies that significantly impede the ability of immigrants to “move forward” on the path to naturalization, to their own detriment and the detriment of their families and communities.

“The report finds that policy makers should encourage naturalization rather than making it unnecessarily difficult,” said Warren. “Another important finding is that the US legal immigration system currently produces the same percentage of high skilled workers as the native-born population.”

The report documents the Trump administration’s policies that seek to prevent undocumented persons from gaining status, divest documented persons of status, cut legal admissions and immigration by decree, create new barriers to permanent residence and naturalization, and make citizenship a less valuable and less secure status.

It finds that at least 5.2 million current US citizens – 4.5 million children and 730,000 adults – who are living with at least one undocumented parent, obtained US citizenship by birth. It concludes that current immigration enforcement priorities effectively deny the full rights and benefits of citizenship to the US citizen children of undocumented parents, and it warns that eliminating birthright citizenship for the children of undocumented parents would create a permanent underclass of US-born denizens.

“US citizenship represents the principle marker of full membership and equality under the law in our constitutional democracy,” said Kerwin. “Yet this administration has adopted policies to make naturalization far less accessible and to make citizenship a less secure and valuable status for some disfavored citizens.”

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Kerwin, D., & Warren, R. (2019). Putting Americans first: A statistical case for encouraging rather than impeding and devaluing US citizenship. Journal on Migration and Human Security (7). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1177/2331502419894286