(CNN) — Black Immigrants Less Likely To Be Approved For US Citizenship Than White Immigrants, Shows a new study published this week.
Researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) analyzed more than 2 million applications for citizenship filed by permanent residents of the United States between October 2014 and March 2018, and found racial disparities among those whose applications were approved.
Black immigrants, the researchers say, have been denied citizenship more often than any other racial and ethnic group.
About 94% of white women and about 92% of white men were approved for US citizenship, while black men and black women received approval ratings of 90% or less, the study shows. Black Muslim immigrants also had lower approval ratings, around 86%.
The data analyzed by the researchers did not include details about the reasoning behind each application denial, a key piece of information that would help determine what leads to the disparities, said Emily Ryo, lead author of the study and professor of law and sociology at the USC Gould School of Law.
CNN has contacted the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for comment on the study’s findings.
But Ryo said the disparities could stem from the country’s long history of using race, ethnicity and gender as grounds for exclusion in federal law.
Discriminatory statutes tied to citizenship began hundreds of years ago with the Naturalization Act of 1790, the authors wrote. The law, which was the first law to define eligibility for naturalization, limited citizenship to “free white” immigrants who had lived in the country for at least two years.
In 1870, Congress modified the requirements of the act to include persons of “african descentBut Ryo said those old stereotypes can continue to cloud the judgment of immigration authorities who have the power to grant or deny citizenship.
Ryo noted that the applicants considered in the study lived in the country for a continuous period of time, many were long-term residents, and immigrants often “experience a number of disadvantages and discrimination in other areas” that could affect their immigration applications. .
“For example, if black immigrants may be targeted more by law enforcement than white immigrants, that disadvantage and target will be exaggerated over time as they try to gain citizenship,” Ryo said.
The study was released days after activists across the country held a Day of Action in Defense of Black Immigrants last week.
Nicole Morgan, an associate attorney with the Texas-based nonprofit RAICES, said anti-Black racism is as “entrenched” in the US immigration system as it is in the rest of American culture and society.
“As a Black person and an immigration attorney who works inside detention centers, I know that Black immigrants are being brutalized, dehumanized and made invisible by the system,” Morgan said in a statement.
“Structural inequities in the broader system, beyond immigration, can really have these kinds of ripple effects that we may not see until they go into the immigration system,” Ryo added.