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Latino Citizenship Campaign Lifts Dem Prospects

Miriam Jordan's WSJ article "Univision Gives Citizenship Drive An Unusual Lift" no doubt comes as unwelcome news in GOP circles.

Jordan reports that Univision Communications, Inc., America's largest Spanish language broadcasting network, is sponsoring an energized nation-wide campaign to help millions of green card-holders become citizens. In the greater Los Angeles area alone, citizenship applications have more than doubled in the first three months of the campaign, which began in January, compared to the same period in '06. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has extended the terms of 40 immigration adjudicators to process the upsurge in citizenship applications.

The campaign is rapidly spreading eastward, and is underway in Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Miami. It usually takes six or seven months to complete the naturalization process. In 2008, the second stage of the campaign will focus on getting the new citizens registered to vote. The impact could be decisive, as Jordan explains:

Latinos have had a lower voter-participation rate than others -- in 2004, 47% of those eligible voted, compared with 67% of whites and 60% of blacks, according to Pew Hispanic Center tabulations. However, Latino immigrants who become citizens report higher rates of political participation than native-born Latinos, according to Pew.

If the citizenship campaign culminates in two million to three million new Hispanic voters, "that could turn the tide in several states," including Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, says Sergio Bendixen, a pollster who specializes in ethnic markets. In 2004, Republicans won by a small margin in those states."

An energetic naturalization campaign has long been needed to help resolve America's immigration problems. Now that one has been launched, Democrats can reasonably expect a significant advantage with these new voters. A 60-40 break favoring Dems among the new voters would not be unreasonable, given recent voting trends. Naturalization applicants currently pay a $400 fee, which does not augur well for America's commitment to equal opportunity. No surprise that Republicans want to raise the fee, and we can expect other obstructionist tactics leading up to the election.