Naturalizations Predicted to Spike in Advance of 2012 Election

Naturalizations are surging in South Florida, reflecting a nationwide trend of increased citizenship applications preceding presidential elections, the Miami Herald recently reported.

Linda Swacina, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services district director in Miami, told the news source that the roughly 100,000 South Florida immigrants naturalized in 2008 was nearly double the annual average for the region. She attributed this spike to interest in the 2008 election.

“I believe voting is the primary reason for becoming citizens,” Swacina told the Herald.

The paper cited Department of Homeland Security figures showing citizenship applications began to rise in 2010 after declining in 2009. If historical trends are any guide, U.S. naturalizations will continue to increase through next year, according to the Herald.

Despite Swacina’s assertion and the DHS data supporting it, voting was not mentioned by many newly minted U.S. citizens who were interviewed by the Herald after a recent naturalization ceremony in Miami. Most of them said they became citizens to expand their opportunities for employment. Nicaragua-born Marvin Parrales told the newspaper he works as an automobile mechanic but aspires to become an aviation mechanic.

While the individuals interviewed by the Herald did not cite voting as a primary reason for pursuing citizenship, 66-year-old, Jamaica-born Averill Nelson recently told Reuters she is very excited to vote now that she is a citizen. She spoke to Reuters after a special naturalization ceremony that was part of a 125th anniversary celebration of the Statue of Liberty.

Immigration is likely to be a key issue for new voters like Nelson, informing their decision about which presidential candidate to cast a ballot for in 2012. This is a fact the Republican Party is keenly aware of; Nevada’s GOP chair, Amy Tarkanian, recently told the Las Vegas CBS affiliate that for the Republican candidate to win the White House, getting the Latino vote is a “must.”