Black immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship are less likely than white immigrants to receive application approval, according to a new report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Immigration authorities approved applications from 94 percent of white women and 92 percent of white men. By comparison, Black men and women were granted citizenship at or below 90 percent. Approval for Black Muslims was even lower at about 86 percent. In fact, application approval ratings were lower for Black than any other race or ethnicity.
Results were based on the analysis of more than 2 million citizenship applications between October 2014 and March 2018.
It’s unclear exactly why racial disparities exist in the citizenship approval process because the data analyzed did not include the reason for denials, the report’s co-author Emily Ryo told CNN.
Ryo said the applicants in the study were all long-term residents who typically face “disadvantages and discrimination in other areas” that could impact how immigration authorities view those applications.
"For example, if Black immigrants might be more targeted by law enforcement than white immigrants, that disadvantage and targeting will become exaggerated over time as they try to seek citizenship," Ryo said.
Ryo, a professor of law and sociology at the University of Southern California, also pointed to the nation’s long history of racism in immigration that goes all the way back to the Naturalization Act of 1790. It limited citizenship to “free White” immigrants.
Immigrant rights activist and attorney Nicole Morgan says racism is at the foundation of the country’s immigration system.
"As a Black person and an immigration attorney who works inside detention centers, I know that Black immigrants are being brutalized, dehumanized, and rendered invisible by the system," CNN quoted Morgan.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denied to CNN that its process is racist, saying that the agency "does not consider race, nationality or other demographic factors when making determinations related to applications for naturalization."