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09/17/2014 | Organizing the America is Home Campaign, Immigrant Rights - Expanding Municipal ID Cards, Building an Immigrant Justice Initiative

Citizenship: A Wise Investment for Cities

Metropolitan areas derive much of their vitality from their large immigrant populations. When immigrants become citizens, they make a deeper investment in their communities, leading to civic, economic and social benefits for all.

    Summary

    Citizenship: A Wise Investment for Cities


    Metropolitan areas derive much of their vitality from their large immigrant populations. When immigrants become citizens, they make a deeper investment in their communities, leading to civic, economic and social benefits for all.


    Local governments have recognized that investing in helping immigrants naturalize is money well spent. Recent research shows that naturalized immigrants achieve an increase in earnings of 8-11%, nationally, with multiplier effects stimulating the local economy.


    Yet roughly one-third of immigrants eligible to naturalize fail to do so because of various obstacles, such as the high cost, lack of English proficiency, and lack of knowledge about the naturalization process.


    Although Congress has failed to take comprehensive action on immigration reform, cities can take bold action to integrate more immigrants into their communities. By increasing the number of immigrants who naturalize, cities can benefit their local economies and our entire country.


    The Cities for Citizenship Initiative (C4C) is a collaboration co-chaired by Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York.


    The initiative is made possible with generous funding from Citi Community Development, and national campaign support is provided by the National Partnership for New Americans and the Center for Popular Democracy. Launched in September 2014, C4C will promote a large-scale naturalization campaign over the next 5 years, assisting legal permanent resident immigrants who want to go through the challenging process of becoming U.S. citizens. C4C will help mayors and municipal governments initiate and enhance citizenship programs in their cities.


    This report represents the first stage in what will be an ongoing research effort by C4C to analyze the social and economic benefits of increased naturalization to immigrant families and local economies. Our initial assessment examines the economic benefits of naturalization for Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York, with the understanding that similar benefits are achievable in other metropolitan areas. We conclude that:


    • The increase in earnings of immigrants who otherwise would not have naturalized is estimated to add between $1.8 and $4.1 billion over ten years to the local economy in the city of New York, between $1.6 and $2.8 billion in Los Angeles, and between $1.0 and $1.6 billion in Chicago.
    • Taking into account a modest multiplier effect, these increased earnings will lead to additional economic activity—or GDP—over ten years of between $2.2 and $4.8 billion in the city of New York, $1.9 to $3.3 billion in Los Angeles, and between $1.2 and $1.8 billion in Chicago.
    • The increased income would generate additional local and state tax revenues over ten years (sales, property, and income) of between $270 and $600 million in the city of New York, between $180 and $320 million in Los Angeles, and between $100 and $170 million in Chicago.
    • Immigrants with disabilities who do not have a five-year work history in the U.S. would become eligible for SSI upon naturalization, bringing more federal dollars into the local economy to support benefits programs.

    Helping immigrants to naturalize is an investment that pays off. For the relatively low cost of promoting naturalization, local communities grow the local economy, increase tax revenue, and relieve local assistance programs. The result is stronger communities with members who have made a permanent commitment to stay and who are able to participate more fully in our democracy, through their new right to vote, improved economic condition, and other protections or perceived protections.