Black immigrants more likely to be denied US citizenship than white immigrants, study finds


By Giselle Rhoden and Nicole Chavez, CNN

Black male immigrants are less likely to be approved for US citizenship than white immigrants, according to a new study released this week.

Researchers at the University of Southern California analyzed more than 2 million citizenship applications filed by US permanent residents between October 2014 and March 2018 and found racial disparities among those whose applications were approved.

According to the researchers, black immigrants have been denied citizenship more often than any other racial and ethnic group.

About 94% of white women and about 92% of white men were approved for U.S. citizenship while black men and women received an approval rating of 90% or less, according to the study. Black Muslim immigrants also had lower approval ratings at around 86%.

The data analyzed by the researchers did not include details about the reasoning behind each application rejection – a key piece of information that would help determine what leads to the disparities, said Emily Ryo, lead study author and professor. of law and sociology at the USC Gould School of Law.

CNN has contacted US Citizenship and Immigration Services to comment on the study results.

But Ryo said the approval disparities could stem from the country’s long history of using race, ethnicity and gender as grounds for exclusion in federal legislation.

Discriminatory citizenship statutes began hundreds of years ago with the Naturalization Act of 1790, the authors wrote. The law, which was the first law to define eligibility for naturalization, limited citizenship to only “free white” immigrants who had lived in the country for at least two years.

In 1870, Congress changed the law’s requirements to include people of “African descent,” but Ryo said these old stereotypes can continue to cloud the judgment of immigration authorities who have the power to grant or deny citizenship.

Ryo noted that the candidates considered in the study lived in the country for a continuous period, that many were long-term residents, and that immigrants “often experienced a set of disadvantages and discrimination in other areas.” that could potentially impact their immigration applications.

“For example, while black immigrants might be targeted more by law enforcement than white immigrants, that disadvantage and targeting will become exaggerated over time as they try to apply for citizenship,” Ryo said.

The study was released days after activists across the country held a day of action in defense of the rights of black immigrants last week.

Nicole Morgan, an associate attorney at RAICES, a Texas-based nonprofit, said anti-black racism is as “rooted” in the US immigration system as it is in the rest of American culture and society. .

“As a black person and immigration lawyer who works in detention centers, I know that black immigrants are brutalized, dehumanized and rendered invisible by the system,” Morgan said in a statement.

“Structural inequalities in the larger system, beyond immigration, can really have these kinds of ripple effects that we may not see until they enter the system. immigration,” Ryo added.

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