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Naturalization in the Wake of Anti-Immigrant Legislation: Dominicans in New York City

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In the 1990s, applications for U.S. citizenship skyrocketed. For the previous several decades, about 200,000 immigrants sought naturalization each year. That number has more than doubled in recent years; in 1997 alone, more than 1.6 million naturalization applications were filed.

Several factors appear to account for the dramatic rise in applications. The more than three million immigrants who received legal status under the amnesty programs of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act became eligible for U.S. citizenship in the mid-1990s. Furthermore, changes in federal law-terminating social benefits to immigrants, expanding deportation grounds, and restricting judicial review-rendered the status of immigrant less secure. Add to this a general anti-immigrant animus, as evidenced by passage in California of Proposition 187, and one can understand why some immigrants might seek the security of U.S. citizenship.