Despite a dramatic increase in naturalization application fees in the midst of the recession, Latinos are leading the way in new citizenship applications and shifting the country’s electoral landscape, according to an independent study of the ya es hora ¡CIUDADANIA! (It’s Time, Citizenship!) campaign released last week. The ya es hora campaign was launched as the action-oriented follow-up to the mass immigration rallies of 2006 and seeks to mobilize and directly assist eligible legal permanent residents with the citizenship process.
The study, Catalysts and Barriers to Attaining Citizenship: An Analysis of ya es hora ¡CIUDADANIA!, quantifies the successes of the groundbreaking and ongoing ya es hora civic engagement campaign. It analyzes multiyear data from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on the number of naturalizations in different metropolitan areas and compares them to the presence of the ya es hora campaign via local events and media promotion. The study finds that metropolitan areas where the ya es hora campaign was present had higher levels of growth in Latino naturalization applications than areas with no campaign presence; of the top 50 metropolitan areas for naturalization, nearly half saw the number of Latino naturalizations double between 2003–2006 and 2007–2008, when the campaign was launched.
Between 2003 and 2006, there were only five metropolitan areas where Latinos constituted the majority of those naturalized, but within a matter of just two years the number jumped to 11. This was due in part to the ya es hora campaign and the motivation stirred by anti-immigrant sentiment and the marches.
“As these new Americans register to vote in record numbers and become more engaged in our nation’s political life, we will undoubtedly see Latino voters playing a greater role in electing officials and shaping policy on the urgent issues that our nation faces today,” said Janet Murguía, President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza.
The study also draws on results from a survey of over 800 Latinos who attended ya es hora citizenship events. One in four Latinos cited their primary motivation for becoming a citizen as being “able to vote,” and another 22% cited “legal, political, or civil rights” as their main reason for naturalizing, indicating that about half of the respondents sought citizenship to defend or exercise their rights.
“These figures confirm that coordinated civic engagement efforts such as the ya es hora campaign will continue to make a
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