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Study: Two-Thirds Of Legal Mexican Immigrants Are Not US Citizens

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Nearly two-thirds of the 5.4 million Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. are not American citizens. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Nearly two-thirds of the 5.4 million Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. are not American citizens. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – Nearly two-thirds of legal Mexican immigrants who live in the U.S. are not American citizens.

Of the 5.4 million legal immigrants from Mexico who are eligible to become citizens of the United States, only 36 percent have taken part in the naturalization process – only half that of legal immigrants from all other countries combined.

According to the analysis of Census Bureau data by the Pew Hispanic Research Center, more than nine-in-ten (93 percent) of immigrants who have not yet naturalized say they would if they could. Asked in an open-ended question why they hadn’t naturalized, 26 percent identified personal barriers such as a lack of English proficiency, and an additional 18 percent identified administrative barriers, such as the financial cost of naturalization.

In 2011, Mexican immigrants had a comparatively lower rate of naturalization, 36 percent of those eligible, compared with 61 percent for all immigrants and 68 percent for all non-Mexican immigrants.

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Mexican immigrants are by far the largest group of immigrants who are in the country illegally—accounting for 6.1 million (55 percent) of the estimated 11.1 million in the U.S. as of 2011.Census data shows that Mexicans are also the largest group of legal permanent residents—accounting for 3.9 million out of 12 million.

The last time the United States government created a pathway to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally was in 1986 with the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA).

But Congress held its first hearing on immigration on Tuesday, as the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said the nation’s immigration system is “in desperate need of repair.”

The session Tuesday comes as President Barack Obama pushes for swift action to pass immigration legislation. But in a sign of the difficulties to come, the Judiciary chairman, Republican Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, cautioned against a “rush to judgment” and said each piece of the issue must be examined in detail.

A 2010 study by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security found that about 40 percent of the 2.7 million immigrants who obtained a green card derived from IRCA had naturalized by 2009.

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