Sunday, September 19, 2021

Espaillat Citizenship Day Statement: There shouldn’t be a price on the American Dream


Representative Adriano Espaillat

Barriers to citizenship are un-American

"Each year, tens of thousands of people from around the world become American citizens. It’s a moment of great pride, the realization that the American dream is firmly within your grasp – and as a formerly undocumented immigrant myself, I know this feeling all too well.


It doesn’t matter if you became a United States citizen yesterday, or if your family have been United States citizens for centuries. This idea – that anyone can become an American – is at the heart of what makes our nation unique. As a nation we’re bound together not by race or creed, but by a shared principle – equality, freedom, and opportunity for all.


And any monetary barrier to achieve that dream is fundamentally un-American – full stop.


America is made stronger by those who willingly and freely chose to join it, often overcoming great obstacles of physical and cultural distance to become an American. With each swearing-in of a new citizen, the spirit of our nation grows, and our communities grow stronger and more resilient – and blocking opportunities for citizenship defies this very ideal and erodes at the nexus of our nation’s values.


Currently, the cost of applying for citizenship remains one of the biggest obstacles for immigrants seeking naturalization. Today, the Department of Homeland Security charges $725 to apply for naturalization – a nearly impossible-to-reach figure that for many immigrants amounts to weeks of wages. To put this in perspective, an employee earning the federal minimum wage would have to work for over two months to pay for a naturalization application for a family of four. This amount is so high that it literally prices hardworking immigrants out of their chance at the American dream – and it’s unacceptable.


Looking back to 1999, an application for citizenship cost $225 – a near-third of what it costs today. This fee increase has led to a sharp drop in applications for naturalization since, which only hurts us as a nation of immigrants. Without a doubt, the price on the American dream creates a blockade for nearly 9 million adults who are eligible for citizenship. This means there are 9 million individuals who contribute to our economy, livelihood, and community- yet remain in the shadows of our democracy.


It’s simple: you shouldn’t have to afford your chance at the American dream.


This barrier to citizenship is all the crueler amid a global pandemic – and as we’re working to create a real pathway to citizenship for our nations over 11.5 million undocumented immigrants, the moment is now for us to rebuild our country’s broken immigration system from the bottom up.


It is a tragic irony that even as immigrant essential workers have held the line in the fight against COVID-19, all while our immigration system is systemically making it more difficult for these immigrants to become Americans and find success in their communities – and we should be ashamed.


For the 13.6 million legal permanent residents living in the United States and the additional 11.5 million undocumented immigrants already on our soil, fixing our immigration system can't wait. Each day that we fail to act is another day that an immigrant father or mother – American in all but law – lives in fear of being separated from his or her American-born children.


Our nation cannot put a price on our values. The idea that anybody in the world can become an American is central to who we are – and it’s past time we lower application fees for immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship. It is simply un-American to extort ludicrous fees from those who wish to claim freedom as their own."

No comments:

Post a Comment