SAN JOSE (KCBS) – Santa Clara County officials claim that close to 200,000 people who are eligible have not naturalized, reducing the pool of individuals who have a voice in the political system.

For many low-income immigrants, one of the main barriers is cost.

”It is $680 per person, and for a family of four or five that’s a very high amount,” said Hermelinda Sapien, President of the Center for Employment Training.

She said that for many families it’s a tough choice, and voting doesn’t seem to be much of an incentive.

”They have their priorities. They pay rent. They buy food. They pay for transportation, and this may be on their list of priorities, but they can’t afford it,” said Sapien.

KCBS’ Mike Colgan Reports:

Nick Kuwada, with the Asian Law Alliance, said that there are other options to becoming a citizen.

”One of those options is the fee waiver, which makes it absolutely free,” said Kuwada. “It is discretionary, so the USCS needs to make a decision on whether they’ll grant it or not, but we can help you through that process.”

Officials said that if more immigrants became citizens, then the large population’s voice would be better represented in county government.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

  1. Cali says:

    I don’ t know about “sending them back” but don’t they have to pay similar amount every 10 years or so to renew their permanent resident status? or is the “fee” different depending on where they are originally from? that doesn’t sound fair.

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