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The Importance of the Immigrant Voice: Voting Rights for the Foreign-Born

Last Friday, Presidential candidate Donald Trump claimed that immigrants are pouring across the border “to vote.” This claim is just not true. While the Department of Homeland Security has acknowledged that there has been a surge of applications — as there often is in the months leading up to a presidential election — from immigrants who want to cast their ballots, the department also noted that immigrants have to prove they have lived in the US for five years as permanent legal residents before they are allowed to vote. In other words, it is incorrect to say that undocumented immigrants are crossing the border in order to cast ballots for — or against — Trump.


With that said, if ever there was a year for eligible Latinos in the United States to exercise their right to vote, 2016 is it. Trump has made “Build a wall!” and deporting 11 million people central promises of his presidential campaign. His xenophobic, racist approach has stoked the fires of hate and division in our country. To protect the future for American Latinos and our country in general, we need the 27 million eligible Hispanic voters to go to the ballot box in November.

Not only might Latinos determine the outcome of this election, but a big turnout would also change how political parties perceive and engage with Hispanic voters in the future. If political parties see a huge turnout from Latinos in this election, then they would work harder on issues that are important to this voting bloc.

In previous presidential elections, only about half of Latinos eligible to vote did so. ​In 2008, turnout among the native-born voting-age population was 64.4 percent and only 54 percent among naturalized voting-age Americans. This year, it is time to show the country just how much power Latino voters can exert in shaping the future of this country.

For immigrants who are wondering, “Can I vote?”, the answer depends upon your immigration status. If you are a naturalized U.S. citizen, you have the same voting privileges as a natural-born citizen and you may vote in any election as long as you meet the other qualifications, which generally include:

  • Must be a United States citizen
  • Must have lived in the state for a period of time (usually 30 days)
  • Must be at least 18 years old on or before election day
  • Must not have been convicted of a disqualifying felony (or have rights restored)
  • Must not have been legally declared “mentally incompetent” by a court

How to Register to Vote:

Deadlines to register to vote are upon us. If you have not yet registered, act immediately. You can find voter registration information for all U.S. states at this website: http://registertovote.org/.

Empowering Eligible New Citizens to Vote:

Unfortunately, there are currently more than 534,000 potential new voters who may miss the chance to vote due to a government backlog.To prevent this problem, you can sign this petition asking that USCIS Director Leon Rodriguez immediately take action to resolve this backlog and ensure that new citizens are allowed to vote. Petition link: http://reformimmigrationforamerica.org/campaigns/new-citizens-deserve-vote/

The voice of each and every American must be heard in this election, whether native or foreign-born!


If you need the services of an immigration lawyer, please contact us today to schedule your consultation. With forty years of experience as immigration specialists, we know how to help you achieve your American dream.

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