Maryland’s Immigrant Community

Content paraphrased from A Regional Citizenship Promotion Plan: The New Americans Initiative, written by CASA de Maryland and Tenants and Workers United. To access a copy of the full report click here.

Over 210,000 Legal Permanent Residents currently reside in Maryland. The state is currently experiencing a substantial growth in its immigrant population. In 2006, 30,204 immigrants obtained Legal Permanent Resident status in Maryland, compared to just 18,914 in 1997. Maryland’s immigrant also represents a diverse array of native countries. Of the state’s roughly 210,000 Legal Permanent Residents, 35.4% come from countries in Latin America while 33.7% are originally from Asian countries. A large African community also calls Maryland home.

As more Legal Permanent Residents settle in the state, the number of newly naturalized citizen has also recently grown. In 2006, 14,465 legal permanent residents living in Maryland became U.S. citizens. However, this number represents only a fraction of those who are eligible for naturalization.

Immigrants in Maryland make significant contribution to the communities in which they live. From PTAs to youth sports leagues, immigrants are strengthening community organizations throughout the state. They also enrich the arts in Maryland by sharing their native country’s culture. Maryland’s immigrants have a strong voice, and naturalized voters consistently turn out in record numbers at the polls.

Moreover, Maryland’s New Americans are also revitalizing our economy. Immigrants help power our economy through taxes, business ownership, and labor force participation. In 2005, immigrant households and businesses paid more than $300 billion in taxes. While immigrants construct their new American Dream, they are also saving ours.

Legal Permanent Residents contribute to our economy and communities, yet their status excludes them from full civic participation. The benefits of citizenship are numerous and include the ability to vote and run for office, reunify families, and obtain better employment and educational opportunities. While a recent survey finds that 90% of new immigrants believe citizenship is necessary and a “dream come true,” the citizenship acquisition rate has declined dramatically over the past five decades. In 1950, 80% of foreign-born residents were citizens; in 2004, that number was fewer than 40%.

Today, numerous barriers prevent Maryland’s Legal Permanent Residents from taking the final step of their American journey. Limited English proficiency, the high cost of applying, additional legal barriers, and a lack of support in navigating the naturalization process hinder eligible legal permanent residents. However, these barriers are surmountable with a smart, focused community-based response. The organizations of the Maryland New Americans Partnership have created the New Americans Citizenship Project to educate Legal Permanent Residents about citizenship and to assist them throughout the process. In the wake of the wrenching debates over immigration reform, the New Americans Citizenship Project provides an opportunity to unite around a shared and positive goal: immigrant integration and citizenship.

For more data from USCIS regarding citizenship applications, please visit the USCIS Dashboard.

For more data on immigrants' contribution to Maryland's economy, check out the Immigration Policy Center's New Americans in the Old Line State: The Political and Economic Power of Immigrants, Latinos, and Asians in Maryland