Mucho más que un sueño (Much more than a dream)

Tuesday , February 06, 2018 - 5:00 AM2 comments

MICHAEL VAUGHAN, special to the Standard-Examiner

A couple of weeks ago, I was speaking with a friend who had just gone through the process to become a U.S. citizen. She had to undergo a criminal background check. She had to take an examination to show an understanding of the English language and to demonstrate a knowledge of civics, government and American history. Her final step was attending a public ceremony where she, and others, swore an oath of loyalty to the United States.

Every year, hundreds of Utahns go through this process. There is a naturalization ceremony held somewhere in Utah every month of the year. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 Community Survey, more than 3,000 Ogden residents have gone through this process. That represents 27 percent of Ogden’s foreign-born population.

So, what do Ogden’s naturalized citizens look like? Slightly more than two-thirds are Hispanic or Latino. If you have lived in Ogden for any length of time, that shouldn’t surprise you. Yet, you should hold that fact in mind as you read the remainder of this piece, because you are going to encounter some other facts that may.

Ogden’s naturalized citizens are 20 percent more likely to be employed than native-born citizens, and they are less likely to be unemployed, with an unemployment rate of 3.9 percent compared to 4.7 percent. The median household income for Ogden’s naturalized citizens is $44,665, which is $2,183 higher than the median household income for all Ogden households.

Contrary to popular images, Ogden’s naturalized citizens are far more likely to work in manufacturing jobs and far less likely to work in service jobs. Again, more than two-thirds are Hispanic or Latino.

Ogden’s naturalized citizens are 9 percent more likely to earn an income of $75,000 or more, and these citizens are 26 percent less likely to live in poverty. They are also far more likely to own their own homes.

The census data demonstrate that Ogden’s immigrant citizens are far more likely to get married, far more likely to raise their children in a two-parent household, far less likely to get divorced, and far less likely to be a single-mother household living in poverty.

In economic terms, Ogden’s immigrant citizens are doing better and contributing more to the economy than the native-born population. Ogden is not an anomaly. Immigrant citizens have been contributing to the country for a long time.

If you watch the television news, read the newspaper or follow President Trump’s Twitter account, you have heard of the Dreamers – undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children. For the Dreamers, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act was supposed to provide a pathway to citizenship. Although the Dream Act was first introduced in 2001 and has been reintroduced a number of times, it has never been approved by Congress.

A different program, titled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), has allowed the Dreamers to stay in the country, but the future of DACA is uncertain. What you may not know is that DACA, alone, does not provide a reasonable pathway for a Dreamer to become a U.S. citizen. That would require the passage of the Dream Act.

What is the dream of the Dreamers? I am confident that many hold the dream of becoming U.S. citizens. As Congress considers the possibility of a comprehensive Dream Act, I hope they keep the data in mind. When you look at what naturalized citizens contribute to Ogden, the state of Utah and the country, you have to wonder why anyone would try to stop a Dreamer from realizing the dream of becoming a citizen.

Dr. Michael Vaughan is a Weber State University economics professor and directs the Center for the Study of Poverty & Inequality. Email: mvaughan@weber.edu.

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