October 19, 2022

New report says newly naturalized citizens in New Mexico galvanized to vote

A new report found that 15,064 newly naturalized citizens live in New Mexico and that they have the potential to impact elections in the state.

The report, titled New American Voters in New Mexico, was produced by a group of organizations that work with naturalized citizens. It says that President Donald Trump’s win in 2016 galvanized many to become naturalized citizens. Juan Avila Campuzano, a spokesperson for Somos Un Pueblo Unido, said Lawful Permanent Residents, also known as “green card holders” who lived sometimes for decades with green cards become naturalized citizens after the 2016 election.

“It was a catalyst for many,” Avila Campuzano said.

Trump campaigned on what many have called racist policies, including the promise of building a wall along the border. While in office, he suspended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known more widely as DACA, separated children from their parents at the border and implemented Title 42, a program that did not allow asylum seekers to enter the country legally during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The groups behind the new report include the National Partnership for New Americans, the U.S. Immigration Policy Center and the Service Employees International Union, along with Somos un Pueblo Unido, EL CENTRO Poder y Acción, NM CAFé. They held a press conference at the Rotunda building in Santa Fe on Tuesday to discuss the report. Several naturalized citizens spoke about becoming a newly naturalized citizen. The report defines newly naturalized as someone who gained citizenship since 2016.

Berta Andrade, a newly naturalized citizen who lives in Hobbs, said she has been living in Hobbs for 30 years but she didn’t become a naturalized citizen until 2016. She said she feared the Trump Administration would implement policies that would cause her to lose her right to live in the U.S. as a green card holder.

Sandra Magallanes, from Luna County, said this year would be her first time to vote in the U.S. She said the first time is “overwhelming” and she hopes to help other new citizens “figure out the process.”

Mario Vazquez said through a translator that he became a naturalized citizen on August 22 and that he has been working in the U.S. for 20 years. He said he intends to vote for candidates in the upcoming election that “support the immigrant worker community.”

Nicola Melaku, the executive director of NPNA, said during the press conference that some of the most important issues for naturalized citizens include DACA, allowing migrants and families of mixed status to participate in the economic recovery aid from the pandemic and keeping families together. Despite protests, individuals who are not citizens were not allowed to receive economic recovery money during the COVID-19 pandemic from the federal government.

According to the report, 15,064 individuals became naturalized citizens in New Mexico from 2016 to 2020 and 58 percent of them are women.

Avila Campuzano said reproductive rights will be an issue newly naturalized citizens who are women in New Mexico will be considering at the ballot box.

“It’s always an important topic. Now we’re seeing rights being stripped,” he said.

Of those who became naturalized citizens since 2016,72 percent are from the Americas, with nearly 10,000 from Mexico. About 45 percent of the new naturalized citizens are between the ages of 25 to 45.

Overall, there are 61,271 naturalized citizens residing in the state’s three major cities: 

Albuquerque has the highest numbers with 35,058 naturalized citizens. Las Cruces has 18,325 naturalized citizens and Santa Fe has 7,888 naturalized citizens.

There are 15,659 naturalized citizens living in rural areas of the state according to the report.

Avila Campuzano said the redistricting that happened in 2021 could also coincide with the numbers of naturalized citizens galvanized to vote by Trump’s 2016 election. He said the newly drawn lines cut Hobbs in half and with the naturalized citizens living in rural areas that could change what “reaching out to constituents looks like in the future.”

Avila Campuzano said that those who cannot become naturalized have also become active by volunteering as canvassers.

“They’re finding whatever way they can participate,” he said.