In the midst of the swirling allegations of fraudulent voter registrations, I thought it would be useful to explain how most of the nation’s immigrant citizens become legally registered voters. Federal authorities are investigating alleged voter registration fraud by the community group ACORN, and a controversial recent report warned of up to 2 million non-citizen immigrants voting nationwide.(Click here for more of Feet in 2 Worlds’ coverage of the report on non-citizen voters, released by a publishing house the Southern Poverty Law Center designated a hate group.)
Most immigrant rights groups focus their large-scale — and, by law, nonpartisan — voter registration efforts on ceremonies where immigrants officially become U.S. citizens. Concentrating on citizenship ceremonies ensures that the people who register to vote are citizens. The lion’s share of newly- naturalized U.S. citizens register to vote this way.
Registering to vote if you are not a U.S. citizen is a felony. This means that if you are an immigrant who isn’t a citizen and you register to vote, you are breaking federal law, and are subject to deportation.For this reason alone, immigrant rights groups are very careful to make sure they do not register non-U.S. citizens to vote.
The ceremonies themselves are huge and moving affairs where hundreds or occasionally thousands of immigrants become citizens after years of waiting to make their way through the quicksand of the legal immigration system.(Check out GOOD and Reason magazines’ recent charts, which outline just how many years this process takes – six to ten years in a best case scenario, twelve to twenty at its worst).Voter registration rates at citizenship ceremonies are typically very high: usually about 75-90% of new citizens choose to register, a rate higher than the 2006 national average of 68% of all citizens eligible to vote .