Amid applause and tears, 205 immigrants from 35 countries took their oath of allegiance to their adoptive country last week and became U.S. citizens in a naturalization ceremony at the Miami office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The ceremony was no different from many others that have taken place there. Yet the new citizens are part of an increase of citizen applications in South Florida and the rest of the country due to the growing interest among immigrants in the 2012 presidential election, immigration officials say.
“The number of naturalizations always goes up when there is an upcoming presidential election,” said Linda Swacina, USCIS district director in Miami. “I remember that for 2008 we had more naturalizations than in previous years. I believe voting is the primary reason for becoming citizens.”
Swacina’s analysis is confirmed by taking a glimpse at annual immigration statistics published by the Department of Homeland Security, which shows that the number of naturalizations increases regularly almost every four years.
Swacina said that in the district she supervises in South Florida, about 100,000 naturalizations were conducted in 2008, compared to the local annual average of 50,000. Immigration officials said that the agency’s internal figures also show an increase in the number of naturalizations nationwide with a preliminary figure of 749,087 during the 2011 fiscal year compared to 676,054 in 2010.
Officials say they expect the number of naturalizations to continue growing as the 2012 election gets closer.
Though the majority of new citizens interviewed after the naturalization ceremony said the election had nothing to do with their decision to become citizens, immigration activists expect many immigrants, primarily Hispanics, to seek their citizenship in order to vote in 2012 as the controversy over immigration reform remains unresolved.
Though President Barack Obama promised an immigration reform in his campaign for the White House, he has recently said that without the Republican support it will not be possible to legalize millions of undocumented.
The increase in naturalizations was disclosed in August in the immigration statistics yearbook issued by the Homeland Security. According to the yearbook, the number of foreigners seeking citizenship in the 2010 fiscal year grew after a dramatic plunge in the applications primarily due to the 2007-2008 economic crisis, which prompted many immigrants to postpone their plans to become U.S. citizens.
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