Nationwide, thousands of permanent residents from around the world are scrambling to become US citizens before November so that they can vote in the general election against the hateful rhetoric of Republican frontrunner Donald Trump.
In the United States, there are currently some nine million immigrants eligible to become citizens. That appears to be changing however, after labor and immigrant rights groups launched a 15 million dollar initiative to help as many people become citizens as possible — before the voter registration deadline in October.Efforts are currently concentrated in Nevada, Colorado, and Florida — where there are enough immigrants who qualify for citizenship to tip the scales. In the swing state of Florida alone, ThinkProgress reports that there are about 800,000 eligible people.
The process to gain citizenship takes approximately three months, giving the effort plenty of time to get people started, according to the organizers. Next weekend alone, volunteers plan to hold a “mega-clinic” where they will seek to get 2,000 people get started.
“Many people do not understand the process. They think they have to go to a lawyer, which costs a lot of money, and they don’t have time, because they have two or three jobs,” Ivan Parra, who has been leading volunteer groups for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, told ThinkProgress. “And they think they can’t afford the $680 fee, because most people in this area are minimum wage workers. They don’t know about the fee waiver, or they are too proud to use it. Some are also afraid to expose their personal information to somebody they don’t know. And the fear is real, because if they accidentally give information that is not true, that’s a crime and they could be deported.”
Parra explained that when he asks people who are taking the steps to become citizens why they are doing it, their overwhelming response has been so that they can vote, as many are seeing real urgency in stopping Trump and his anti-immigrant rhetoric, such as proposing border walls and mass deportations.
“There’s a new urgency. People really want to apply at this moment. They are becoming aware that they have power,” Parra stated.