Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Citizenship offices are few and far between, forcing rural immigrants to travel long distances

Rural immigrants usually have to take the long road to citizenship. Most states have few U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offices—some have none—and most are located in urban areas, meaning it's not uncommon for those seeking naturalization to make several trips across thousands of miles before becoming U.S. citizens, Sara Millhouse reports for the Daily Yonder. (Map: USCIS offices)
Iowa only has one immigration office, in Des Moines, meaning that someone like French-born Stephanie Rickels, who lives in rural Cascade, Iowa, has to drive 183 miles each way for appointments, Millhouse writes. Her three required trips—her last appointment lasted 15 minutes—will equal 1,098 miles.

While being a teacher affords Rickels time during the summer to make three trips to Des Moines, some rural residents are not so lucky, Millhouse writes. Some people can't afford to take time off from work, while others lack the transportation. Rural transit authority is available from Cascade to Des Moines, but three trips cost about $450.

Costs and lack of transportation and time have caused some to fear that many rural immigrants skip being naturalized, thus, are ineligible to vote in a presidential election in which immigration has become a major issue, Millhouse writes. The U.S. government "estimates that 8.8 million people are eligible for citizenship. Of those, 653,416 went through the process in fiscal year 2014, the latest for which statistics are available through the government’s Office of Immigration Statistics. In 2014, 6,125—less than 1 percent—of newly-naturalized citizens lived in 'micropolitan' or noncore counties." (Read more)

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