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Change in green card cap drives citizenship

October 21, 2013|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com
  • Nazik Parazyan became a citizen in 2010. Photographed on Monday, Oct. 14, 2013.
Nazik Parazyan became a citizen in 2010. Photographed… (Roger Wilson / Staff…)

For Nazik Parazyan, taking the test to become a citizen in 2010 was a breeze because she had already lived in Glendale for 11 years.

It takes about five years to apply for citizenship after getting a green card, but Parazyan couldn't get one. She came to the United States seeking asylum, like many others immigrating to Glendale from Armenia in the 1990s. Although her status as someone fleeing from fear of persecution was approved within four months, it would be nearly a decade before her green-card application was approved.

Once Congress lifted an annual cap of 10,000 for green cards for asylum seekers in 2005, Parazyan got her green card and in 2010, her citizenship.

Parazyan's story isn't unique.

“It's made a big difference because of the elimination of the cap,” said Artem M. Sarian, an immigration attorney based in Glendale, adding that some waited up to 17 years for a green card before 2005. “A floodgate opened and everyone became a permanent resident.”

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Sarian points to the Congressional action as one reason the number of naturalized citizens has increased in Glendale over the past five years.

In 2009, the number of naturalized citizens was 58% of the total foreign-born population. That number jumped to 67% in 2012, according to 2012 Census Bureau data.

In 2012, 110,002 of the 194,501 people living in Glendale were foreign-born, according to 2012 census data. Most of them likely are Armenians coming from a variety of countries, according to an analysis of demographic data.

Natural tendencies for citizenship rates to rise as immigration rates subside and pro-citizenship advocacy from Armenian community groups looking to boost voter registration could have also played a role in the trend.

The two biggest waves of Armenian immigrants into Glendale were in the 1980s and 1990s, said Levon Marashlian, a Glendale Community College history professor. Armenian immigration tended to coincide with war or political controversy in Middle Eastern countries, as well as with the the fall of the Soviet Union. Armenians came from different countries, highlighting the diasporic nature of a nation splintered by genocide in 1915.

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