Naturalization and voter registration rates have surged in recent months, but strict new voter laws in many states are threatening to reduce the number of Latinos voters (including many newly naturalized) who will be allowed to cast ballots. More than 185,000 citizenship applications were submitted in the final three months of 2015, which is a 14 percent increase from 2014 and up 8 percent compared with the same period ahead of the 2012 elections. According to the Houston Chronicle, in Texas, naturalization ceremonies in Houston have swelled to about 2,200 per month, compared with 1,200 before, and more than 80 percent of those naturalized then register to vote, compared with 60 percent previously.
Experts are attributing the surge in naturalization to Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy positions during the presidential campaign. Ben Monterroso, executive director of Mi Familia Vota said, “A surge in Latino engagement is coming. Unsolicited, people tell you that ‘I’m becoming a citizen because I want to vote against Donald Trump’ or ‘I want to vote against the attacks on our community.’ ”
But a new report from the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) finds that eight million Latino voters could be impacted by new voting laws. First, in 2013 the Supreme Court invalidated a provision of the Voting Rights Act that which obligated certain states with a history of discrimination to obtain “pre-clearance” from the U.S. Department of Justice to make any modifications of electoral laws. According to NALEO, approximately 8 million Latino voters live in jurisdictions that must no longer be pre-cleared by the federal government despite their histories of discriminatory voting practices.