USCIS Pushes Naturalization Efforts and Builds Voter Rolls

Immigrant influence in politicsWith 8.8 million legal residents—green card holders—living in the United States, White House officials and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) are pushing naturalization and citizenship efforts. The effectiveness of the push could carry strong influence in the upcoming 2016 elections.

During the week of September 17-23 alone, which is Constitution Week, more than 36,000 immigrants will become citizens through more than 200 naturalization ceremonies around the country— taking place in museums, libraries, landmarks and national parks. In the same effort, regional immigrant groups are organizing more than 70 citizenship workshops in cities across the nation.

Estimates put immigrants who are eligible to become naturalized citizens at around 60 percent Latino and at around 20 percent Asian. Significantly, both groups have demonstrated solid support for President Obama in the 2008 and 2012 elections. Presumably, each group will continue casting ballots for Democratic candidates.

“Sadly, I think the administration went overboard,” Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles said in a New York Times story on the topic. “I think it is politicizing the naturalization process.”

With Mitt Romney’s loss in the 2012 elections, some GOP observers suggested party outreach toward diversity efforts as the solution to the underlying problem of a shrinking base. According to reports, Romney lost nonwhite voters by more than 60 percent and Republican ranks of white voters in 2016 will come in at 2 percent less than the number of white voters in the 2012 election. In order to remain relevant, then, the drivers behind the next iteration of the Republican Party included a fundamental commitment toward diversity and the development of a multi-cultural platform.

The reinvigoration assessment fell apart when Donald Trump came on the scene, campaigning to an anti-immigration drumbeat. With his candidacy to become the party’s nominee, some say Republicans have doubled down on the party’s most conservative values.

According to immigration statistics from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS,) green card holders spend a median of seven years before becoming citizens. However, immigrants are eligible to apply for citizenship after spending only five years as a legal permanent resident when they meet all eligibility requirements, or after three years for those who are married to a U.S. citizen.

The naturalization and citizenship campaign highlights the naturalization process and USCIS educational resources available for use in the process. The Citizenship Public Education and Awareness Campaign got underway in July with digital media in California, New York, Texas and Florida. Now, USCIS is expanding the campaign to six additional states—New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, Virginia, Washington and Arizona. A full 75 percent of the country’s 13.3 million green card holders live in these 10 states.