In 2019, over 830,000 new citizens were naturalized and most registered to vote. Through March 2020, approximately 168,000 were naturalized and 700,000 more were “pending.” Those pending will most likely have to wait until 2021, unless the USCIS comes up with new ways to naturalize new citizens.
The delay is due to COVID-19 restrictions, and a 2017 policy requiring in-person interviews. Now, rather than gathering in a small federal courtroom, drive-in ceremonies are being tested. The virus will not only prevent hundreds of thousands of immigrants from being naturalized, but also deprive them the opportunity to vote in what could have been their first presidential election.
Candidates for naturalization whose status is currently “pending” will most likely not become new citizens in time to vote in the upcoming presidential election. It’s unfortunate for the individuals, for their ethnic/racial community, and candidates who need their votes. It’s fairly common knowledge now that naturalized citizens have higher voter turnout rates than native-born citizens.
There are now 23 million naturalized citizens in the US. The majority of them live in 10 battleground states won by Trump in 2016. Their vote could determine the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
Dr. Juan Andrade, Jr.
United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, Inc.