Long May She Waive

By David North on August 15, 2011

The Migration Policy Institute, an open-borders think tank in Washington, has had the following helpful piece of information on its website for two months now:

Independence Day in the United States, which is on the fourth of July, is just around the corner, and with it comes the traditional holiday festivities, fireworks, and waiving of American flags . . . [emphasis added]

Thank you, MPI, it is good to know when Independence Day is, but the U.S. does not waive its flag – it annually waives the need for visas for millions of alien tourists. [UPDATE: MPI corrected the spelling error this afternoon.]

This awkward piece of copy – a Freudian slip? – was the lead to an otherwise useful report on the number of aliens in the U.S. who have become naturalized recently, and those who have not. (There is a summary of that report in the August 12 issue of Immigration Daily carrying the same spelling error.)

What I found interesting in the largely statistical presentation was a measure that was not mentioned. Using data in the report, I calculated that of the 7,870,000 million aliens eligible for naturalization in 2009, more than 92 percent of them did not get naturalized the following year. (MPI presents the number of potential citizens, and the number of those naturalized in 2010 (619,913), but does not compare the latter to the former.)

Yes, the number of naturalized persons, some 16.8 million of them, exceeds the number of non-naturalized eligibles, 7.9 million, but there remains a huge population (more than 7 million) that apparently does not want to go to the nuisance, and the expense, of becoming a citizen. It is a point that I do not think I have seen before.

Now I know, from a ground-breaking study I did for the Ford Foundation a quarter of a century ago – "The Long Grey Welcome", no longer in print – that the citizenship process is a bit of a grind, involving applications, waiting periods, fees, waiting periods, an examination, an interview, and more waiting, and then the actual ceremony. One can easily lose two or three days' pay in the process – most eligibles find it worthwhile, but a lot of aliens do not.

MPI also reported a peak in naturalizations in FY 2008 (1,046,539) and, subsequently, a sharp drop to 619,913 in FY 2010. It explained the peak as a combination of interest in the then-upcoming presidential election and various then-recent bits of legislation which made it more difficult for non-citizens to secure some government benefits.

Meanwhile, if MPI wants to add a proofreader to its large staff, there are several out-of-work, native-English-speaking school teachers I could recommend.