National Immigration Forum

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New American Voters: Ready to show their growing political power

April 07, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas




Photo by US Army Korea - IMCOM


During last year’s Presidential and Congressional elections, our country witnessed the growing power of immigrant and Latino voters as they turned out to vote in record numbers, redrawing the electoral map in critical presidential swing states (Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Florida, among others) and helping change the balance in Congress.


Further confirming the key role of these fast-growing voters, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) released an analysis of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics (OIS) data on the increase in citizenship among Latinos and the growing power of the Latino electorate. The Associated Press reports:


Hispanics made up nearly half of the more than 1 million people who became U.S. citizens last year, according to a Hispanic advocacy group.


The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials said the number of Latinos who became Americans in fiscal year 2008 more than doubled over the previous year, to 461,317. That's nearly half of the record 1,046,539 new citizens overall in 2008, a 58 percent increase from 2007.


The article points out that although this increase in citizenship is in part due to the steep increase in the price of naturalization applications (it went from $330 to $595 and many tried to beat the price increase), another key factor was the desire by Latinos to actively engage in the political process and public policy debate:


"Latinos who naturalize are eager to demonstrate their commitment to America by becoming full participants in our nation's civic life," said NALEO president Arturo Vargas, whose nonpartisan group works to improve the citizenship process and increase Latino participation in civic activities.

Almost 1 of 2 New Americans in 2008 was Latino, April 7, 2009


These New American voters — defined as immigrant U.S. citizen and the U.S.-born children of immigrants — share the same concerns as all American voters: the economic recession, the war in Iraq, access to healthcare, and other issues, but because of their personal connection to the immigrant experience, they also view immigration as a threshold issue.


Immigrant bashing and the failure of Congress to fix the broken immigration system have fueled their desire to become U.S. citizens and make their voices heard.  They will be watching very closely how the new Congress and new Administration approach immigration: Will they come up with more excuses for inaction on immigration or will they confront the problem and offer viable and workable solutions to our immigration system?





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