Encarnacion Pyle of the Columbus Dispatch has a new piece out asking “Is fear of Trump fueling immigrants’ push for citizenship?”
Naturalizations typically increase heading into a hotly contested presidential election. But this year, immigrants are expressing a clarifying motive: achieve the right to vote in order to defeat Donald Trump and his anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim campaign.
Pyle’s piece quotes veteran advocates Veronica Dahlberg and David Leopold reflecting on the conversation they’re hearing in the community about the GOP campaign. An earlier piece from fellow Dispatch journalist Earl Rinehart quotes newly-naturalized immigrants expressing these same sentiments. Recent pollingfrom Latino Decisions also shows that Latino voter opinion of the Republican Party is low and sinking thanks to the party’s enabling and embracing of the most extreme candidate in modern history.
“Enthusiasm around citizenship and voting is high this year in the immigrant and Latino community. Donald Trump and the Republicans’ anti-immigrant campaigning are a big part of that,” said Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice. “Senator Rob Portman voted against comprehensive immigration reform, opposes the Department of Homeland Security’s executive actions on immigration, and is supporting Donald Trump. That’s a horrible record for him heading into the 2016 general election.”
The full Pyle piece is pasted below and available here.
It’s often said that every U.S. citizen has a right — a responsibility, perhaps — to vote.
Well, it seems that many immigrants, some of whom have lived and worked in, and in their hearts adopted, this country as their own, are eager to get that and the other privileges that come with becoming full-fledged Americans.
The number of people applying to become U.S. citizens is at its highest level in four years, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of citizenship application data.
A total of 249,609 immigrants have applied for naturalization from the start of October 2015 to the end of January 2016, a Pew researcher wrote in a recent blog post. That’s a 13 percent increase over the same period last year and a 5 percent jump for the same four months before the 2012 presidential election.
As the November election approaches, groups in Ohio and across the country are stepping up efforts to get more legal residents to become citizens in time to vote. They have a large pool to draw from: 8.8 million people.
“Years ago, people would say, ‘I don’t want to get involved,’ as though it was a bad thing,” said Veronica Dahlberg, the daughter of Mexican and Hungarian immigrants whom the Los Angeles Times in 2014 called “the guardian angel” of Ohio’s immigrant community.
That happens less so today, said Dahlberg, founder and executive director of HOLA, a northeastern Ohio group that works to empower and integrate immigrants through community organizing.
“The youth coming of voting age are more cemented in the idea of wanting to stand up and participate in the democratic process,” she said.
Donald Trump’s run for the presidency has given many a reason to mobilize, some say.
“Never before have we seen such hateful rhetoric come this close to the White House,” said David Leopold, an immigration attorney in Cleveland and former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “This man has built his entire campaign on a platform of racism.”
And though politicians before Trump have bashed immigrants, minorities and the poor in an attempt to galvanize political anger and win votes, Trump has taken the tactic to unprecedented levels, Leopold said.
The presumptive Republican nominee started his presidential bid with comments about Mexico sending its “rapists” and criminals to the United States and calling for a “great wall” to be built between the United States and Mexico to keep them out. Since then, Trump also has said that he wants to deport 11.3 million undocumented workers — 6 million of whom are Mexicans — and strip babies born in America to undocumented immigrants of their birthright citizenship.
He’s also vowed to bar Muslims from entering the country and threatened to cut off remittances that Mexican immigrants in the United States send to relatives back home — all if Mexico doesn’t help pay for his border wall.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat, said there’s a real hunger by immigrants who feel under attack to become citizens.
“It’s a predictable, emotional and energetic response to protect their families and communities,” he said.
A coalition of 37 groups launched an effort in January to increase naturalization and voter-registration rates among immigrants.
“From Las Vegas to New York, immigrant families in our coalition are stepping up and taking concrete steps to ensure their voices shut out hate in November and beyond,” said Tara Raghuveer, deputy director of the National Partnerships for New Americans.
Though there’s often a spike in citizenship interest during presidential-election years, other, more practical, reasons also drive increases, according to Pew.
The largest single jump in citizenship applications since the government started tracking them in 1907 was in 2007, just before a spike in the cost of applying, from $330 to $595, said Jens Manuel Krogstad, a Pew writer and editor. That year, applications reached nearly 1.4 million.
Because of the huge swell, applications dropped by 62 percent a year later, in 2008, even though it was a presidential-election year, he wrote in his blog.
Other significant increases came in the mid-90s, Krogstad said. A 1986 law granting legal permanent residency to nearly 3 million immigrants illegally in the United States and a tough 1996 immigration-enforcement law likely contributed to those increases.
It’s possible this year’s numbers will continue to soar, he said.