The flow of illegal immigration into the U.S. has slowed sharply since 2007, bringing down the estimated total number of undocumented residents to 11 million. Even with the declining numbers, that leaves a lot of people in the country who, ostensibly, would like to be here permanently and legally. How does one become a U.S. citizen—how long does it take, how expensive is the process, and how can an immigrant of simple means and limited experience navigate a complicated legal system? Research shows that immigrants to the U.S., whether legal or illegal, are a motivated group—the rate of citizenship among immigrants great from below 10% in 1990 to 56% by 2008, a substantial achievement given the constraints of the federal citizenship law. So how is it done, and could 11 million undocumented residents of the U.S. all one day become citizens?
Angelo Paparelli, partner in the Immigration Practice Group of Seyfarth Shaw LLP
Yvonne Mariajimenez, Deputy Director of Neighborhood Legal Services, which provides legal representation for low-income people on immigration matters.