Citizenship & Civic Participation
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Immigrants generally come here to join with family members or to work. Participation in America’s civic life is something that may seem like a luxury at first. As they become more rooted in their adopted country, though, most immigrants become citizens. Beyond that, voter registration, voting, and other forms of civic participation vary. Some immigrants come from countries where fair elections are not part of their society. Others may be reluctant to make waves by fighting for something they need. As a result, even as they become a larger portion of our population, new Americans are under-represented in our civic life.
In recent years, this has been changing. In the 2008 Presidential Election, Latino and immigrant voters played a major role in putting several swing states into the Democratic column, after several years of anti-immigrant and anti-Latino rhetoric from elements of the Republican Party.
There are a number of groups around the country who help immigrants understand our civic culture and help them get involved. Some groups regularly hold workshops for naturalization assistance. Others conduct voter registration drives. Others help immigrants organize around important issues such as school board decisions. In the process, they are helping to transform our civic culture. As the number of new citizens continues to grow, our civic culture will grow as well—adapting to desires and needs of immigrants who have become Americans by choice.