Texas Trails California in Legal Immigrants

Demonstrator Jesus Sandovar waves four American flags at an immigration rally in Dallas.
Demonstrator Jesus Sandovar waves four American flags at an immigration rally in Dallas.

Texas remains in the top five states in terms of the number of immigrants who become legal permanent residents, according to data compiled by the Tribune's nonprofit brother in arms, California Watch. In 2009 approximately 95,380 immigrants in Texas became legal permanent residents, fourth in the nation behind California, New York and Florida, respectively. Texas has been no lower than fourth among all state since 2000. It inched up to third in 2003 and 2004, then dipped back down in 2005.

The state has averaged about 83,000 legal permanent residents per year for the last decade. By comparison, during that same period California has averaged about 241,000 legal immigrants. New York has averaged about 120,000 legal immigrants. Florida has averaged about 108,000.

New York has been in the second slot since 2000, with about 120,250 of its immigrants becoming permanent legal residents every year. Florida, except for swapping ranks with Texas in 2003 and 2004, has been in the third slot every other year, averaging 108,360 status changes annually.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the division of the Department of Homeland Security that governs lawful migration into the United States, last increased its fees for visa and residency applications in 2007 and saw a surge of applications before those changes took effect, said spokeswoman Maria Garcia-Upson. The increase was part of an effort to fund staff increases in order to get through the backlog of applications the agency had at that time. The plan worked, Garcia-Upson said recently, and the department is currently up to date.

“Now, in terms of most of our applications, there is no backlog anymore. You apply to become a United States citizen today and within four months you are already being scheduled for your interviews,” she said. 

The agency is required to review its fee schedules every two years, however, and initiated a 45-day public comment period earlier this month. UCIS is proposing an increase for more than two dozen visa and residency applications, which it said is the result of the agency’s current $200 million revenue shortfall.

The current fee change proposal would not affect the current $595 fee associated with the application for naturalized citizenship, the N-400.

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.