Immigrants in Arizona less likely to become citizens, study shows
The Associated Press
September 17, 2003
PHOENIX — Compared to the rest of the nation, Arizona immigrants are less likely
to become U.S. citizens, but the percentage of those taking citizenship oaths
here is the highest among border states, a study has found.
The study was conducted by the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan organization based
in Washington D.C., and found that 55 percent of eligible immigrants in Arizona
had become U.S. citizens, compared with 58 percent nationally.
However, Arizona had higher citizenship rates than California, Texas and New
Most of Arizona’s immigrants come from Mexico.
Mexican immigrants have historically had among the lowest citizenship rates of
any ethnic group, said Jeffrey Passel, a demographer who co-wrote the Urban
“A lot of immigrants from Mexico don’t want to naturalize because they think
they may go home, and many of them do,” Passel said.
Lower levels of education and limited English among Mexican immigrants also play
a role, said Passel, adding that expanded language programs and civics
instruction could help.
There are 223,000 naturalized immigrants in Arizona but an additional 183,000
immigrants here are eligible for naturalization, the seventh-highest number of
any state, the report found.
An additional 36,000 legal immigrants will be eligible for citizenship within
five years, the report said.
Louis Olivas is an assistant vice president of academic affairs at Arizona State
University and studies demographic trends.
Olivas is troubled because their lack of citizenship removes key forms of
societal participation that helps to anchor new arrivals.
“They are prevented from voting. They are prevented from holding public office,”
he said. “So that’s a challenge because in the long run when they become
naturalized citizens, there is a stability that comes with it.”