Despite delays, new citizens naturalized in time to vote

60 immigrants became citizens in GR just 13 days from election
Posted at 6:35 PM, Oct 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-21 18:35:32-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — On Wednesday, around 60 brand new U.S. citizens were naturalized at the Federal Building in downtown Grand Rapids. The ceremony comes just in time to allow those new citizens to register and vote on November 3rd.

When the coronavirus hit in March, it halted work on naturalization. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, because of budget shortfalls and subsequent furloughs, was slow to process pending naturalization cases. The delays slowed the naturalization of almost 300,000 immigrants on the path to citizenship, some who can no longer register to vote as their state’s deadline has passed.

Michigan has same-day voter registration, and citizens who spoke to FOX17 after the ceremony said they had every intention of doing so.

“I do have all intention of voting,” said Kingsley Duke, a college student who said he’d been going through the naturalization process for nearly a decade. “I think it’s the right time for me to exercise those rights in the best possible way I can.”

“This is a great opportunity for me,” said Maria Sanchez. “My daughter just turned 18 and we’re going to be voting for the very first time.”

A recent Pew Research study found that naturalized U.S. citizens account for one-in-ten eligible voters in the country, or roughly 10% of the American electorate. About 23-million naturalized citizens are eligible to vote in the 2020 election.