The number of legal immigrants seeking citizenship in the United States is at its highest in four years amid efforts by the White House and advocacy groups to increase the number of Latinos and Asians, who have "long favored Democratic presidential candidates," a Pew Research Center study
Between October of last year and January, 249,609 immigrants have applied for citizenship, up 13 percent over the same period last year.
That compared with a total increase of 19 percent for all of the last presidential cycle, from fiscal year 2011 to fiscal 2012.
The Pew study, which was released on Friday is based on preliminary data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, was first reported by Paul Bedard of The Washington Examiner
According to the study, the Obama administration and other organizations "have launched efforts to increase the number of naturalized immigrants.
"Other groups have focused on registering new Latino voters and boosting turnout," the report adds. "Latinos and Asians have long favored Democratic presidential candidates in past elections."
Only American citizens may vote in presidential elections.
"While Hispanics and Asians have long had significantly lower voter turnout rates than whites and blacks, Hispanics and Asians who are naturalized citizens tend to have higher voter turnout rates than their U.S.-born counterparts," Pew says.
During the 2012 election, which sent President Barack Obama back to the White House for a second term, 54 percent of naturalized Hispanics turned out to vote, compared with 46 percent of Latinos born in the United States.
Among Asians, the turnout rate for naturalized immigrants was 49 percent versus 43 percent for who were U.S.-born.
As for white immigrants who become citizens, their turnout in 2012 was 55 percent, compared with 64 percent among whites born in the United States.
And for blacks, the rate was 62 percent among immigrants — while African Americans born in the country turned out at a 67 percent rate, according to the report.
"Applications may also continue to rise into the summer, though how many of these new applicants will become naturalized in time to register to vote remains to be seen," Pew cautions. "Applications generally take six to seven months to process, and Election Day is Nov. 8."
Still, the efforts to increase Hispanic turnout have drawn praise from former Mexican President Vicente Fox, who recently told Bedard: "Count with us, with all Mexicans, to support the Democratic Party because you've done much better with us than the Republican Party."
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