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EFE News Service

Naturalization Boosts Hispanic Voting Power In "Swing" States

By Rosendo Majano

July 2, 2004
Copyright © 2004 EFE News Service. All rights reserved.

Washington, Jul 2 (EFE).- Independence Day naturalization of 16,000 mainly Hispanic immigrants is set to boost the Latino vote, especially in "swing" states of Arizona, Florida and New Mexico.

Nearly 100 immigrant outreach organizations, including the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) - which recently held its national conference in Washington for the first time - are campaigning to encourage immigrant naturalization because "your vote counts."

The director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Eduardo Aguirre, will preside over several 4th of July swearing-in ceremonies for thousands of foreigners who will become naturalized in 13 cities as part of the 228th anniversary celebration of U.S. independence.

An estimated 8 million Hispanics are registered to vote in the Nov. 2 presidential elections, and activists are trying to sign up 2 million more.

According to organizations dedicated to getting out the vote, at least one million Latinos who have now fulfilled all requirements for obtaining U.S. citizenship have not done so for various reasons, principally negligence.

NALEO leaders said that everyone eligible must understand their vote is necessary in order to promote change in areas such as health-care programs, for example, to which Hispanics and other minorities have limited access.

Under the slogan: "Citizenship: The American Dream in Action," USCIS has granted naturalization certificates to thousands of immigrants from all over the world - mostly from Latin America and the Caribbean - in a series of ceremonies that began June 28 and are scheduled to end July 9.

The Association of Hispanic Publications and about 100 other organizations have launched a national campaign to promote and educate Hispanic voters on the need for their increased participation to counteract their typically high level of apathy.

One of the organizations' activities is to encourage Latinos to apply for U.S. citizenship.

A USCIS spokesman said his institution has initiated a program for standardizing citizenship exams throughout the country, expediting the naturalization process for millions of immigrants who seek citizenship each year.

The organization is also trying to reduce the application process to six months. They hope to achieve that goal by the end of 2006, since millions of immigrants must currently wait years for legal status.

A large number of naturalization ceremonies will be held as part of 4th of July celebrations in San Antonio, Phoenix, Seattle, Orlando, Miami, Denver, New York, Arlington, Monticello, Charlottesville, Virginia and Boston, as well as Atlanta, Mumford, N.Y., Memphis and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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