Tomorrow, July 1st, starts the first day of the summer long effort to register new voters and aid Legal Permanent Residents in acquiring citizenship. Sponsored by a coalition of immigrants rights activist groups, the We Are America coalition will kick off ”Democracy Summer” with events throughout the country. With the debate over immigration reform raging and emotions flaring, immigrants have been galvanized into action. Two groups in particular that are being targeted by the activists are those who have been living in the U.S. legally for years as permanent residents (green card holders) but have until now felt no pressing need to attain full citizenship and the children of immigrants aged 18-24 who have not registered to vote.
This comes, as eligible longtime residents who have had green cards for at least five years are applying in greater numbers to naturalize, or become citizens.
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, naturalization applications in the first three months of the year increased 19 percent over the same period last year. And in March, visitors to the USCIS Web site downloaded a record 162,000 citizenship applications. Some immigrants may be driven by fear, others by a desire for full political participation and still others by a wish to petition for relatives living abroad.
According to a recently released report from the Illinois Coalition For Immigrant and Refugee Rights the number of new voters from the immigrant community could be as high as 14 million. This is number not lost on the immigration rights activists who see Democracy Summer as a means to organize political action that goes beyond marches and demonstrations and can make a significant impact at the ballot box, particularly in the 2008 races.
tags: immigration, Democracy Summer, voter registration , We Are America, immigration reform, citizenship exam
"Today We March, Tomorrow We Vote"
The Untapped Power of over 14 Million
Potential New Immigrant Voters in 2008
As millions of immigrants marched across the U.S. in the historic mobilizations for immigration reform this past spring, they chanted: "Today We March, Tomorrow We Vote". Skeptics dismissed the marchers, pointing out that neither the undocumented nor legal permanent residents (green card holders) can vote. This report finds that there are 14.25 million potential voters among legal immigrants who are currently eligible to naturalize and the 16 - 24 year old U.S. born children of immigrants. This includes 12.4 million potential new voters who can be eligible to participate in the 2008 elections.
The current Republican-led legislative attacks on immigrants and red-hot anti-immigrant demagoguery sparked the spring 2006 immigrant rights marches and are currently driving record increases in citizenship applications by legal immigrants. They are also likely to drive increases in the registration and voting rates of U.S. born children of immigrants. This could dramatically – and negatively – affect the outcome of the 2008 Presidential election for the Republican Party, as well as Republican prospects in numerous state elections.
Findings and Implications:
There are 14.25 million potential voters among immigrant legal permanent residents (green card holders) who are currently eligible for citizenship and 16 – 24 year oldU.S. born children of immigrants who will be eligible to vote in the 2008 elections.
This number includes:
Nearly nine and a half million immigrants who are currently eligible to naturalize, become U.S. citizens, and vote Almost two million U.S.-born children of immigrants between the ages of 18 and 24 years who are not currently registered to vote. The almost two million U.S.-born children of immigrants between the ages of 18 – 24 who are already registered to vote. Another one million U.S.-born children of immigrants who are not yet voting age, but will reach 18 years of age by the time of the 2008 elections, and will be eligible to register and to vote. There are over 2.6 million Mexican immigrants who are currently eligible to become U.S. citizens.
Read the complete report “Today We March, Tomorrow We Vote!” from the ILLINOIS COALITION FOR IMMIGRANT AND REFUGEE RIGHTS
"We want to capitalize on that movement energy and translate it into a real political voice for immigrants," says Deepak Bhargava of the Center for Community Change, one of the We Are America coalition groups, whose goal is to produce 1 million new voters before election day 2006 . The Democracy Summer campaign hopes to offer a nationwide network of citizenship schools to help immigrants with their paperwork, civics classes and promote political participation, and voter registration drives.
If successful, the effort to naturalize perhaps millions of legal residents could have far-reaching political ramifications. Some key swing states could experience seismic shifts in voter demographics. Florida in particular is home to a possible 600,000 newly minted citizens. According to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials these new citizens also tend to vote in much higher percentages than native born Americans. "Our mission is to make good on the slogan, 'Today we march, tomorrow we vote'," says Chung-Wha Hong of the New York Immigration Coalition.
If you interested in helping this effort please check the list of events already scheduled in your area and contact We Are America to lend your services. And remember this effort will go on throughout the summer so if your thinking of organize and event or would like to help in future events in some capacity let the folks at We Are America know.
If immigrant rights advocates are successful in their organizing efforts, come November the newly registered could make the difference between victory and defeat in certain races. Come 2008, a crop of newly naturalized citizens could make their mark on the political landscape. They could very well hold the key to changing the balance of power in some very key states, and set he stage for not only a total reevaluation of the immigration reform issue but also facilitate a shift of political power on a national scale.