Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is spurring a record number of citizenship applications and increases in voter registration among Latinos upset by the candidate’s rhetoric and fearful of his plans to crack down on immigration. Activists, lawmakers and political consultants around the country say Hispanics are flooding into citizenship workshops and congressional offices and jamming hotlines on how to become U.S. citizens or register to vote. Many say they are primarily motivated by the rise of Trump, who has proposed deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants and building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. In California, the number of Hispanics registering to vote doubled in the first three months of this year compared with the same period in 2012, according to state data. In Texas, naturalization ceremonies in Houston have swelled to about 2,200 per month, compared with 1,200 before, according to an analysis by the Houston Chronicle. More than 80 percent of those naturalized then register to vote, compared with 60 percent previously.
According to the most recent national statistics, more than 185,000 citizenship applications were submitted in the final three months of 2015, up 14 percent from the year before and up 8 percent compared with the same period ahead of the 2012 elections.
Experts expect a similar, if not larger, uptick for the first three months of 2016 when new federal data is released in coming weeks.
“A surge in Latino engagement is coming,” said Ben Monterroso, executive director of Mi Familia Vota, a nonpartisan group registering Hispanics in six states. “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.’ ”