Study: San Diego is third-toughest city to gain U.S. citizenship

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New U.S. citizens are sworn in during a ceremony outside the James D. McClure U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building in downtown Boise, Idaho, on Thursday, July 23, 2020. An Idaho federal judge has held a rare outdoor court proceeding to swear in new U.S. citizens amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Idaho Press reports that U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale swore in 37 people from 14 countries. (Brian Myrick/The Idaho Press via AP)

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SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — A recent study found that San Diego, Calif., is in the bottom three cities for people trying to become U.S. citizens behind New York/New Jersey and Philadelphia.

The research was done by Boundless Immigration, a legal firm that helps people with resident status and U.S. citizenship.

The report also discusses how the COVID-19 virus negatively impacted the number of people who would have qualified for citizenship.

“It’s no secret that legal immigrants have been forced to deal with moving goalposts the last four years as they tried to navigate the increasingly complicated path to U.S. citizenship, but this report shines a light on how much more difficult that path has become,” said Xiao Wang, CEO and co-founder of Boundless Immigration. “Our hope is that this report will help educate and guide immigrants, advocates, and state and local government leaders seeking to make the naturalization process more equitable.”

Key findings of this report include:

  • The coronavirus pandemic disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of potential new American voters. Boundless estimated that nearly 300,000 would-be citizens who should have been eligible to vote in the 2020 elections— including many Senate runoffs—couldn’t due to the suspension of naturalization services. 
  • During the pandemic, the processing time for a citizenship application has surged to 10 months—about double the processing time between 2012 and 2016. 
  • The path to becoming a U.S. citizen is increasingly more inconsistent depending on where you live. Immigrants in some cities face citizenship application wait times more than four times higher than in other cities. 
  • The three metro areas where it is hardest to become a U.S. citizen are New York/New Jersey; San Diego; and Philadelphia. 
  • The three metro areas where it is easiest to become a U.S. citizen are Raleigh, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina; and Tucson, Arizona, with Albuquerque, New Mexico taking the 5th spot. 
  • More than 11% of all citizenship applications were denied in 2020, up from a 7.6% denial rate a decade ago.

Researchers with the group say they used data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other sources as the basis for their report.

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