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New citizens play role at the polls?

July 11, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Mexicans are leading the way in seeking United States citizenship, and experts say they may have an impact at the polls.More than 18,000 new citizens were sworn in during naturalization ceremonies in downtown Los Angeles Friday.

"Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you, my God. Thank you, America," said Gallegos Hernandez, a new U.S. citizen.

Hernandez is typical of applicants who are driving up the numbers. He, like many others, has been a legal worker for decades, but he now wants to be able to vote.

"I registered to vote today too. I want to vote for the new president," said Frank Pedrazza, another new U.S. citizen.

"Immigrants, when they are newly naturalized, tend to vote in overwhelming numbers. Very high percentages. They take it very seriously," said Jaime Regalado of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs.

Political scientist Jaime Regalado says Latinos are a swing vote. Regalado also says the new citizens will bolster the ranks at the ballot box.

"It's not simply the presidential election, but in some congressional races, some state races, and some local races," said Regalado.

A media campaign by Spanish-language stations and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), an organization that pushes for political participation, may be behind the rush to vote. There have been a reported 1 million voter applications turned in in less than 10 months. Analysts say the campaign is a big deal because of anti-immigration backlash.

About 122,000 Mexicans obtained citizenship in 2007, which was 50 percent higher than 2006.

 

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