On Saturday — which is known as Citizenship Day — immigrant-rights groups and labor activists celebrated a recent 25 percent increase in U.S. citizenship applications in New Mexico.
According to the nonprofit Somos Un Pueblo Unido, new data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office shows that 637 citizenship applications were received in New Mexico during the second quarter of 2016, or the period from April 1 to June 30.
In contrast, 537 citizenship applications were submitted to the USCIS during the same period last year, Somos said in a statement.
Somos members who became citizens this year sounded out on their reasons for taking the life step.
“I decided to become a U.S. citizen so I can have the right to vote,” Hobbs resident Berta Andrade said. “The rights of dairy workers, immigrant rights and immigration reform are very important issues for me and my family. That’s why after living in Hobbs for over 20 years I decided to attend a citizenship forum last December and start the process.”
Now also a voter registration agent, Andrade is encouraging others to exercise their rights at the ballot box as part of Somos’ non-partisan Viva el Voto campaign in McKinley, Lea, Roosevelt, Chaves and Curry counties.
Somos also quoted member Veronica Villegas, another Hobbs resident who gave similar reasons for becoming a citizen. “I come from a dairy worker immigrant family,” Villegas said. “I felt it was important for me to finally become a U.S. citizen so that the struggles we experience and the issues that are important to us are being talked about and given attention.”
The uptick in New Mexico citizenship applications is part of a national trend. According to Somos, U.S. citizenship applications rose 32 percent nationwide in the third quarter of 2016. On Saturday, community organizations in at least 35 states had planned events designed to inspire longtime, lawful permanent residents to change their immigration status to citizens, according to the Wisconsin-based immigrant advocacy organization Voces de la Frontera.
“I’m becoming a (U.S. citizen) so I can help people, and so my kids, my family and I can have more rights and opportunities,” Voces member Esteban Alvarez was quoted as saying. “I especially want to join my fellow Latinos in voting in historic numbers in this year’s elections.”