The United States has a reserve of potential voters that has been largely untapped -- at least until now. The White House is urging 8.8 million legal U.S. residents eligible for naturalization to do precisely that: become U.S. citizens and gain the right to vote, Politico reported Monday. The push ahead of the 2016 presidential elections could help boost the Democratic Party, given that many such residents are Hispanic and Asian, populations who tend to vote for Democrats.
More than 13 million people in the U.S. are legal permanent residents. More than 30 percent who are eligible to become full-fledged citizens are from Mexico. Eight of the top 10 countries of origin for legal immigrants to the U.S. are from Latin American or Asia.
The White House announced an initiative Thursday that aims to smooth the path for green card holders toward full citizenship. Called the “Stand Stronger” citizenship awareness campaign, it included 70 outreach events in just this week. It “aims to break down the barriers for eligible immigrants and refugees to become U.S. citizens,” according to the White House, and thus encourage lawful permanent residents to “commit to citizenship today.”
In addition to allowing naturalization fees to be paid with credit cards, under the initiative, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would expand mobile services to rural areas throughout the U.S. and offer new online tools to help residents prepare for or practice the exam necessary for citizenship. It would also take other steps to make the naturalization process easier.
Conservatives fear that this push will hurt the Republican Party’s prospects ahead of 2016 elections.
“We’re getting lower-income people who are coming in and taking more services, and they’re drawn to the Democrats,” said Ed Martin, president of the right-wing Eagle Forum, Politico reported. “That’s what Obama knows, and that’s what the Democrats know, and that’s what Republicans should know and should be fighting back against it,” he said.
If legal immigration continued at its current pace of roughly a million new residents per year, it would likely hurt the GOP’s prospects in elections. Hispanics and Asians tend to be more progressive than conservative in their outlook as voters, as they are “ more supportive of redistributive policies championed by Democrats to support disadvantaged populations,” the Center for Immigration Studies, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization based in Washington, D.C., found in a report in 2014.