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.
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.