By Selena Hill – – – – – –
The success of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has largely been fueled by his use of fear mongering against Muslims and Latino immigrants, along with his promise to impose outlandish anti-immigrant policies.
However, in addition to galvanizing supporters in the Republican primary race, the GOP front-runner is also inadvertently mobilizing immigrants to become naturalized U.S. citizens in order to vote against him.
More Immigrants Apply for Citizenship
Immigrants are applying for citizenship at unprecedented rates in response to the brash billionaire, notes the New York Times. Although it is typical to see a spike in naturalization applicants during a presidential election cycle, Trump’s anti-immigrant and racist rhetoric has inspired many of the 8.8 million legal residents to become naturalized citizens, about 2.7 million of whom are Mexicans.
Overall, naturalization applications increased by 11 percent in the 2015 fiscal year. At this rate, there could be as many as 1 million applicants by the end of the year, about 200,000 more than average.
During an interview with The New York Times, Hortensia Villegas said she has lived in the U.S. as a legal immigrant from Mexico for nearly a decade. However, she became motivated to apply for naturalization after Trump launched his campaign and began hurling attacks at Mexicans and immigrants. She admitted that her primary reason for seeking citizenship was to obtain the right to vote against him.
“I want to vote so Donald Trump won’t win,” said Villegas, a 32-year-old mother of two. “He doesn’t like us.”
“A lot of people are opening their eyes because of all the negative stuff Donald Trump has brought,” said Villegas’s husband, Miguel Garfío, a 30-year-old Mexican-American born in Colorado.
Rush to Naturalization
Villegas and her family are just a few of the many Latino immigrants who are rushing to naturalize in time to vote in November. To help immigrants obtain citizenship, SimpleCitizen been encouraging people on Facebook to apply for green cards using its service.
Likewise, the White House is also encouraging legal residents to apply for naturalization. Meanwhile, the Obama administration poured $10 million in grants into nonprofits, immigrant rights groups and labor unions that are helping immigrants navigate the process. The organizations plan to invest the money into citizenship workshops this spring in order to build immigrant voting power.
Critics, however, have accused the White House of launching this initiative in order to expand the Democratic base, since a majority of Latinos are Democrats. In response, administration officials argue the campaign is nonpartisan and that naturalized immigrants improve their incomes and chances for home ownership.
“I certainly don’t care what party they register with; I just want them to become citizens,” said Leon Rodriguez, director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency in charge of naturalizations.
Trump, however, seems to take no issue with an increase in Latino voting power.
“I’m just telling you that I will do really well with Hispanics,” he said at a Republican debate in Houston last month.