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Cost of becoming a U.S. citizen goes up

September 10, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Immigration advocates say the reason fewer people are applying for U.S. citizenship is because fees are going up.An estimated 18,000 new citizens will be sworn in at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Thursday. However that number is significantly lower than in previous ceremonies.

The waiting line for immigration and citizenship applicants used to wrap around the Los Angeles Federal Building. In days past, it could take hours before anyone would even step inside.

"It only took five minutes. By 10:35, we were called in and it was fast. Eleven o'clock, we were out," said one man who was waiting at the federal building.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, the crowds are gone, with most citizens processed and sworn in in 2007, a year when 100,000 applications were received in Los Angeles alone.

"This year in July, somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,000 to 5,000. So, it's a significant decrease," said Jane Arellano, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.

The surge was pushed by the announcement that fees would rise from $400 to $675. However, some say the cost could be much more.

"The total cost could be close to $3,000 just for applying for adjustment of status with a petition from a family member," said Molly Curtis, immigration attorney.

"Fees are killing us, especially with the economy right now. You know, gas is so expensive, fees are going up. What are we going to do?" said Claudia Calderon, who was just approved.

Another factor for the earlier surge is that some longtime residents wanted the power to vote. Latino leaders promoted political involvement through a major campaign.

"I want to vote for the new president," said Frank Pedraza, a new citizen.

Within 10 months a million new citizens became eligible to vote. More are still in the pipeline trying to beat the October 20 deadline to register for the November election.

Three ceremonies will be held at the Convention Center on Thursday.

The next large swearing-in will be in October, and that may be the last time we see the big numbers.

 

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