Drive Is On To Register Hispanic Voters

Peter Prengaman, AP, June 28, 2006

Los Angeles—Immigrant rights groups have a message for unsympathetic politicians around the country: Change your stand or risk getting voted out of office.

A coalition of unions, Hispanic activists and religious groups is trying to convert the big street protests of recent months into long-term political power by launching nationwide citizenship and voter registration drives Saturday in at least 19 states.

The Democracy Summer campaign aims to register 1 million new voters and persuade many of the 8 million legal residents in this country to apply for citizenship.

“We want to make sure no politician will dare propose the criminalization of immigrants in the future,” said Angela Sembrano, a top organizer in Los Angeles.

Organizers have identified more than a dozen swing states with anywhere from 50,000 to 900,000 legal residents eligible to apply for citizenship — enough to influence state and congressional elections if they become Americans.

The groups have also commissioned studies estimating that as many as 3 million U.S.-born children of immigrants will be voting age by 2008.

In a trend activists attribute in part to fear that the government will crack down on immigration, citizenship applications are already up nearly 20 percent over last year.

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Still, organizers believe greater voter registration by immigrants who have become citizens could sway elections this fall in congressional districts where lawmakers identified as anti-immigrant — mostly Republican — are vulnerable.

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