The influence Latinos exert in the political sphere has increased across the country due to the sustained and robust growth in the number of immigrants that have made the decisive act of becoming a U.S. citizen. The fact that this trend is now on the decline is worrisome.
The number of naturalized citizens in 2010 and 2011is 691,000, a number far below previous years in which the figure surpassed a million. As well, Latino immigrants represented half of these new citizens, a percent much greater than the current estimate.
The increase in fees for naturalization, demographic trends, and the overall deterioration of the economy are all partially responsible for the decline in the number of new naturalized Latino citizens. The decrease can also be attributed to the traditional attachment to one’s birth country, as well as the habit of putting off for later such a significant decision. It is also likely due to frustration with a political system that seems impenetrable to the desires of voters and a political climate that feels unwelcoming.
It is important to turn around this decline and to reaffirm the value of naturalization. Citizenship provides immigrants with the power to fully engage and participate in the decisions that determine their destiny. The votes by naturalized citizens have improved the conditions of our community.
The call to ‘become a citizen’ or to register to vote if already a citizen takes on even great significance in the coming 2012 presidential election. Voters will have very different options to address this country’s challenges at this critical moment.
Legal residents who have lived here for more than five years can petition for citizenship and, if all requirements are met, could be able to vote in time for this November election.
Participate if you can and don’t be a passive spectator or victim; be a protagonist in U.S. democracy.