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Looming U.S. election drives immigrants to naturalize in time to vote

Tuesday, October 18, 2016 - 02:06

As voter registration deadlines loom across the United States, immigration organizations hope the surging demographic of this year's naturalized citizens will register in time to vote in the Nov. 8 presidential election. Nathan Frandino reports.

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Under the gaze of America's founding fathers, another group of immigrants become U.S. citizens. They're part of a surging group who've naturalized this year... just in time for the election. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MAYRA CHANG, NEWLY NATURALIZED U.S. CITIZEN FROM PERU, SAYING: (REPORTER ASKING: "How big is the right to vote for you?") "It's really big. From one to 10, 10. It's really big for me." Mayra Chang came to the U.S. from Peru five years ago. She's one of more than 500,000 applicants approved for citizenship since last October. And like many others, her decision to naturalize was driven largely by the rhetoric of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and, in particular, his comments about illegal immigrants from Mexico. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DONALD TRUMP, REAL ESTATE MOGUL AND 2016 U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, SAYING: "They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people." (SOUNDBITE) (English) MAYRA CHANG, NEWLY NATURALIZED U.S. CITIZEN FROM PERU, SAYING: "I feel really offended and really hurt about those words that have been said because it's not true." Naturalization applications are up 8 percent this year compared to 2012. At the Central American Resource Center in Washington, D.C., Rachel Gittinger says the election is the reason why. (SOUNDBITE) (English) RACHEL GITTINGER, DIRECTOR OF CITIZENSHIP AND CIVIC ENGAGEMENT AT CENTRAL AMERICAN RESOURCE CENTER (CARECEN), SAYING: "This election has been particularly divisive around immigration, and a lot of our students have cited the rhetoric coming out of the elections and just out of the general discussions around immigration as a reason for why they want to pursue citizenship." But whether these newly naturalized citizens are able to register to vote in time remains to be seen. Leon Rodriguez of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is hopeful. (SOUNDBITE) (English) LEON RODRIGUEZ, DIRECTOR OF U.S. CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES (USCIS), SAYING: "One of the things that I say about the motivation to vote is I'm an optimist. And so I'm hoping all of our new citizens will vote in this election, and for elections for 50 to 60 years to come, that they really will use these new rights that they gain as citizens." Newly gained rights that come with their new lives in America.

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Looming U.S. election drives immigrants to naturalize in time to vote

Tuesday, October 18, 2016 - 02:06