The number of people applying for citizenship was up in 2009 as compared to 2008. But the numbers aren’t anywhere near where they were in 2007. Immigration attorney Nic Suriel discusses the numbers.
Ted Simons: The number of people applying for citizenship was up in fiscal year 2009 as compared to 2008 but the numbers are down big time from those who applied in 2007. Here to talk about this is Nic Suriel, Immigration Attorney. Thank you for being here on "Horizon."
Nic Suriel: Thank you.
Ted Simons: A number of illegal immigrants applying for citizenship up. Surprised by that at all?
Nic Suriel: No. You think about it immigrants always had a positive outlook, I think. That's the hallmark, I think, of coming to this country and looking at opportunity and looking at, you know, becoming part of the American way and so it doesn't surprise me.
Ted Simons: Part of the American way means voting in American elections. I guess the '08 election made a huge difference, didn't it?
Nic Suriel: Huge difference in July of last year, 7,000 interviews in the month of July, record number for Phoenix, and I was there. I was there when there was just a busload. There were 40-some-odd examiners doing interviews. It was an exciting time. At Cardinal Stadium they had a citizenship swearing in. It was 3,000 people. Terry Goddard spoke there.
Ted Simons: the numbers from 2007 down considerably temperature that the economy? The crackdown? What's doing on here?
Nic Suriel: A huge price increase went into effect august 1, '07. The applicants that submitted the applications in '07 and were accepted in '08, the President Obama galvanized immigrants. You'll see people want be to be part of that in elections.
Ted Simons: We mentioned the fee increase. There's another one coming, correct?
Nic Suriel: In fact, I recently met with the district director here. We were talking about how USCIS needs to pay for its way. So they're forecasting another big price increase sometime next year. It's not official yet. We're kind of seeing that coming.
Ted Simons: That'll suggest another surge in applicants before the increase takes effect?
Nic Suriel: I think so. I think the midterm elections will motivate people. Immigration forum, there's still people where hopes and dreams are riding on that happening. There'll be congressional districts that immigrants will want to be a part of.
Ted Simons: Talk to us about the process. What does an immigrant have to do in terms of cost in terms of time in terms of tests? What goes on?
Nic Suriel: It's a lot. I'm a naturalized U.S. citizen myself. I've been through the process. This is just a check list I use. This is the checklist. You have to go to an interview and get your fingerprints taken and get passport pictures. If you've ever been cited, even a plain traffic citation, you have to disclose that. You have to get certified copies of any police report that was filed. You're going to have to produce five-year tax returns. It's quite a bit and really the job of an immigration lawyer is to just kind of apprize people of the process. How long it'll take. What will happen. A lot of people have a lot of fear. My two interviews this past week, they both failed to pass the U.S. history and civics portion of the exam.
Ted Simons: You said a lot of people have fear. Is that the biggest fear they have? Taking the test? What the biggest concern you hear?
Nic Suriel: Um, a lot of things. You know, there are people that come to this country, you know, having gone through phenomenal hardship in their home countries and so it's very exciting to them to finally become a U.S. citizen. They really are surprised. They'll let me become a citizen? Yes. You. And so, um, there's a lot of nervousness. They don't know whether something they did or failed to do could impact them. It's just the not knowing of what exactly it all entails.
Ted Simons: Back to the numbers. Studies showing that the economy hits immigrants harder than native-born. Do you agree with that?
Nic Suriel: I do. Because immigrants are more entrepreneurial. Study after study shows that people that are not native born are more apt to open a store, you know, be part of creating jobs. I certainly can attest to that. My father, that was his motivation when he came here. He came and opened up a store in New York City and hired 20 people. That was part of the process. And that's -- I think that's still part of the immigrant experience.
Ted Simons: It's part of the immigrant experience to be opening up and be entrepreneurial. Be what about those that come here just to get a job, escape and find something better? You think they get hit hard as well?
Nic Suriel: I think so because you're looking at people whose English proficiencies may not be all that good and so they -- they're also a little bit, um, um, gun shy about what they know or don't know and so they're apt to do work that is a little more strenuous.
Ted Simons: Last question real quickly. Someone once said the crackdown on illegal immigration should push more folks to apply legally. Does that equation work?
Nic Suriel: you know, the problem with that is that a lot of people don't understand the immigration system. They don't understand exactly what that means and so it is the larger issue. It's one that hopefully will come back, too.
Ted Simons: Very good. Thank you for your time. Good to have you here.
Nic Suriel:Immigration Attorney;