Photo: Power of Immigrant Voter
President Barack Obama declared today Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, encouraging Americans to reaffirm their commitment to the rights and obligations of citizenship during a week-long observance commemorating the 225th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.
Congress designated Sept. 17, 1952, as the first Constitution Day and Citizenship Day in recognition of Americans who strive to uphold the duties and responsibilities of citizenship. In celebration of the day, the Immigration Policy Center sent out a reminder of the potential and power of the immigrant vote:
For many aspiring immigrants, achieving citizenship means full participation in civic life—and that means the right to vote. Every year, thousands of immigrants become naturalized U.S. citizens and exercise their new right. In the 2010 national elections, naturalized citizens comprised 6.4% of all voters. The voter registration rate among immigrants as a whole has risen since 2000. Just as importantly, a growing number of U.S.-born children of immigrants are now coming of age and becoming voters.
However, the full potential of the immigrant vote has not been reached. There are more than eight million legal immigrants in the United States who are eligible to naturalize but have not yet done so. The latent electoral power of these voters-in-waiting is enormous. In many parts of the country their votes could potentially swing elections.
There are numerous counties across the country where the number of Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) who have arrived since 1985 exceeds the margin of victory in the Obama-McCain election. Moreover, the voter rolls of many counties would grow dramatically if LPRs who are eligible to naturalize actually did so and registered to vote. Although this could not happen in time for the 2012 election cycle, it could make a difference in future elections.