Americanization and Representation

Millions of Latinx people are living in the United States as legal residents, but are not eligible voters due to noncitizen status. Additionally, immigration plays a key role in the potential voice of this large community. Achieving better representation is a continuing struggle for the Latinx population.

Legal Permanent Residents

Beyond those already eligible to vote, there are at least 3.3 million Latinx people who are living in the U.S. as Legal Permanent Residents Individuals with “green cards” who are given many — but not all —  of the rights of citizens but are not naturalized. They remain citizens of their country of origin and are currently eligible to become citizens. Those 3.3 million people form a potential voting population larger than the total number of registered voters in Minnesota.

Research has shown that many people do not become citizens because of the high cost of naturalization The process of becoming a citizen and the pressure of the citizenship examination. Also, many people experience discrimination regardless of their citizenship status, which sometimes discourages potential citizens from becoming naturalized.

Immigration and Naturalization

Policies that affect Legal Permanent Residents and other groups of immigrants tend to affect the Latinx population disproportionately. The discussion on immigration is focused around the Mexican border and Latinx immigrants. The discrimination that many Latinx people face and the difficulties surrounding the naturalization process can hurt voting rates.

As was mentioned above, many people may choose not to become citizens because of the hardships they will face or because they think it will not help.

Even though immigration policy affects Latinx communities and is often how others talk about their communities, that does not necessarily mean it’s everyone’s top priority. Although widespread trends are hard to find because of the diversity of Latinx populations in the U.S., polls found that in the 2014 elections Latinx people rated education, the economy and healthcare above immigration as the most important issues to be addressed.

Redistricting in Latinx Districts

Immigration and naturalization don’t just present barriers for non-citizens, though. Even eligible and registered Latinx voters in the U.S. may lose a lot of political power due to a recent Supreme Court case dealing with the redistricting process. When states go through redistricting When the borders of electoral districts (groups of voters) are redrawn, they use census data to determine population counts.

Districts are created to include about same number of people. Right now, many times that count includes noncitizens, so many immigrant-heavy areas can have their own districts.

There is a challenge to that rule which would make redistricting so it only counted citizens. In areas with high immigrant populations, this can mean that their votes will be less powerful because they will be combined with people from other areas to reach the population requirement.

The proposed change would only affect these areas, especially if they are poor, because more wealthy areas have fewer immigrants. This means that the barriers to citizenship for some can be barriers to political power for others.