A Snapshot Comparison: Naturalizations in Canada and the United States

By Dan Cadman on December 29, 2014

A record 260,000 people became naturalized Canadians in 2014, double the number from 2013, and more than any other year in Canada's history.

By comparison, according to the most recent available statistics,in the United States in 2013, 779,929 individuals naturalized — almost exactly three times the number of individuals naturalized in Canada.

However, for this comparison to be meaningful, a look at the respective populations of the two countries is in order: On July 1, 2014, Canada's population was estimated at 35,540,400, whereas the U.S. population in 2013 (to keep the year relating to naturalizations consistent) was estimated at 316,497,531.

Using these figures as a gauge, we can see that, give or take, nearly three-quarters of 1 percent of Canada's entire population consists of individuals who became new citizens in a single year (although they were, of course, already in the country as landed immigrants, the Canadian equivalent of permanent resident aliens). This is a surprisingly high figure —triple that of the United States, where the percentage of new citizens in 2013, vs. overall population was much more modest: a shade more than a quarter of 1 percent.

The rapid increase in the number of naturalizations in Canada was apparently due to changes in processing that eliminated several steps previously required of citizenship applicants. According to Canada's Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, the changes are a first step toward eliminating naturalization backlogs. In the same statement he indicated that fees are likely to increase substantially to cover processing costs.

This sounds very much like steps taken in the United States in 1990, when responsibility for naturalization was shifted from federal courts to the bureaucracy, the process was "streamlined", ostensibly to cure backlogs, and fees were also raised to cover processing costs. Unfortunately, the backlogs never quite went away. Part of the problem, at least in the United States, is that fee monies are fungible and therefore don't always get spent on the particular applications that generated the fees to begin with. Instead, those fees end up going into a variety of pots for uses never originally contemplated, such as funds to implement unconstitutional executive actions ordered by the president — executive actions for which no fees, or inadequate fees, are generated, and which did not receive appropriations by Congress since the actions being taken were never legislatively authorized.

Another outcome of the American experiment with "eliminating obstacles" to naturalization was that the process itself became politicized when the Clinton-Gore administration established a naturalization drive — Citizenship U.S.A. — to expedite processing and speed up the pace of naturalizations. The program ended in acrimony with many objecting that the program was a thinly veiled effort to shove through and approve huge numbers of ineligible applicants, including those with criminal records, in an attempt to stack the polls with new citizens and influence the outcome of future elections in favor of their party.

That, too, still has a familiar ring even after all these years, doesn't it? Many suspect it's behind this president's repeated and unilateral attempts to forge a sub rosa "path to citizenship" even in the face of a refusal by Congress to pass a broad-based amnesty for the 11 or 12 million aliens living illegally in the United States, most recently by a series of "executive actions" that will permit perhaps as much as half the illegal alien population resident in the United States to remain and work.

It's no wonder that immigration and citizenship matters have become so divisive in our nation. They have become the playthings of politicians.

Let's hope the Canadians show the wisdom to not go down the same path that we have trod.