One of the privileges and rights of US citizenship is the right to vote. With this being an election year, many new US citizens are hoping to be able to cast their vote in the upcoming election – and a group of immigration advocacy groups is working hard to ensure that new US citizens can be registered in time to cast their vote.
Immigration in general is likely to be a key issue in this year’s election. President Barack Obama has been criticized by opponents for not creating the immigration reforms he promised in the last elections. At the same time, his opponent Mitt Romney has adopted a tough stance on immigration reform.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, there were 12.6 US residents in 2010 who held immigration visas. This number included the approximately 8.1 million green card holders who qualified for citizenship but who had not yet applied for naturalization. According to the Department of Homeland Security, this number of potential voters includes a significant number of Latinos. This is significant because during the last election minority voters helped President Obama secure a win. The decision of minority voters to seek citizenship and the vote in this election can therefore significantly impact the election results. According to experts at the University of Washington, the immigrant community will be very important in the 2012 election, with Latino voters representing the largest growing segment of the electorate in the US.
In March, a coalition of immigration advocacy groups joined together to launch a “Become a Citizen Now” initiative, aimed at helping qualified immigrants apply for citizenship. The aim of the campaign is to help 5000 green card holders apply for citizenship and register to vote and within the first month the campaign had encouraged 500 people to apply for citizenship. It usually takes about five to six months to get citizenship, so the clock is ticking for those applicants who hope to become citizens in time to take part in the 2012 election. According to the National Partnership for New Americans, green card holders should apply for citizenship by the end of April 2012 if they hope to take part in this year’s election.
In addition to the “Become a Citizen Now” initiative, a group known as the National Council of La Raza hopes to encourage 180 000 Latinos to register to vote. The National Council of La Raza has so far registered over 10 000 people. Studies have shown that non-US born voters who register to vote overwhelmingly show up to cast their ballot.