Understanding refugee naturalization as partnership

Acquisition of citizenship may be viewed as an end point of immigrant integration, but recent research suggests that early naturalization catalyzes further incorporation. In the United States, naturalized citizens acquire legal advantages, including protection from deportation; broader rights in the judicial system; greater access to social benefits; the ability to vote and travel on a US passport; and eligibility for certain jobs in government, the military, and the defense industry. Advantages may also extend beyond formal law, providing new citizens with a stronger sense of social standing and signaling inclusion to would-be employers, landlords, and others, dynamics that may translate into higher wages, stronger national identity, and more democratic participation. Thus, for policy makers, evidence that refugees acquire US citizenship quickly and at high rates not only provides evidence of integration but also raises the possibility of other long-term positive effects. Methodologically, the research by Mossaad et al. highlights the value of data partnerships. Theoretically, the findings open a conversation to view naturalization as an outcome of migrant–host society partnership.

Irene Bloemraad, Understanding refugee naturalization as partnership, PNAS, 2018