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How newly naturalized U.S. citizens in Nevada can sway the 2024 election

A standing sign that says "vote here/vote aquí" with an American Flag design.
Lucia Starbuck
KUNR Public Radio

Three out of every four immigrants in the U.S. are naturalized citizens. A new report says that in eight states this year, including Nevada, the number of immigrants eligible to become U.S. citizens outnumbers those states’ margins of victory in the 2020 presidential election.

If some or all of the eligible immigrants naturalize this year and then vote in the 2024 presidential election, it could significantly sway the outcome of the election, according to the American Immigration Council.

For example, in Nevada, the number of immigrants eligible for naturalization this year is close to 102,200. The margin of victory by which President Biden won the state in 2020 was just over 33,596 votes.

In Florida, the number of immigrants eligible for naturalization this year is about 574,800 and the margin of victory by which Trump won the state in 2020 was a bit more than 371,686 votes.

“What our study shows is that those who are eligible to be naturalized can actually impact the election, because the number of people who are eligible to become naturalized within Nevada is higher than the margin of victory from the presidential election,” said Steve Hubbard, senior data scientist with American Immigration Council.

Obtaining citizenship – and the right to vote – not only ensures that immigrant voices are heard in U.S. policymaking but also promotes a sense of belonging among immigrants in the United States, according to the report.

Citizenship also allows individuals to run for office and become eligible for certain government jobs.

It also brings benefits to individuals and families by providing protection from deportation, enabling greater economic security, and supporting active civic engagement in democratic activities.

There are more than 17 million people in the country that are currently eligible to become citizens but have not yet done so. The top countries of origin for naturalization-eligible immigrants are Mexico, India, China, El Salvador and Cuba, according to the study.

Immigrant communities are increasingly a major political and civic force, Hubbard said.

“Immigrants are an important voting bloc, especially those who have been recently naturalized because they have gone through a process that's very rigorous, that they have worked hard to get through And that's important to them, and I think they are very motivated to vote,” he said.

Immigrant households pay a significant amount in taxes, despite being underrepresented in voting power.

They paid more than $382.8 billion in federal taxes and over $196.3 billion in state and local taxes, making up 16.2% of all taxes paid by U.S. households in 2022.

Becoming a citizen gives immigrants a voice in how their tax dollars are spent.

There's also a significant number of immigrants who are in the working age group, Hubbard said.

“That's important when we face labor shortages, like we are currently facing across the country. And we have lots of research that shows that immigrants often go into fields, such as healthcare and STEM, science, technology, engineering, and math fields, that are important to the country and to our economy,” Hubbard said.

Carlos Tobón was born in Mexico and has been living in Las Vegas for about 10 years. He is currently in the process of becoming a U.S. citizen.

"I want to contribute with my knowledge, my efforts, my dedication, my values and principles. It is necessary to recognize the great effort that immigrants make to be here because we come here not because we want to vacation, but we come with the desire to work, to make a small patrimony, to help the family through professional and personal achievements," Tobón said in Spanish.

Tobón hopes to obtain his citizenship before November so he can vote in the 2024 presidential election.

Daniela Bazzoli was born in Italy and has been a resident of Reno for 20 years. She became a U.S. citizen in 2020 and voted for the first time that year.

Lucia Ferrari (from left) and Daniela Bazzoli voting for the first time during the 2020 presidential election, in Reno, Nev.
Courtesy of Daniela Bazzoli
Lucia Ferrari (from left) and Daniela Bazzoli voting for the first time during the 2020 presidential election, in Reno, Nev.

Two things motivated her to apply for citizenship, Bazzoli said. One happened just after she returned from a trip.

“The immigration officer looked at my green card and goes, ‘Mama, you've been a resident for 20 years, it's time to become a citizen.’ And I looked at him like, ‘you know, you're right. It's true.’ And then Lucia, our oldest, was getting ready to vote in 2020 And she's like, ‘Mom, let's vote, let's be first time voters together.’ And that really mattered,” Bazzoli said.

For this upcoming election, Bazzoli wants to vote again in hopes of having a better future for her daughters.

“Now I have a second daughter that's gonna go vote too. So it matters for me to vote to support them, and then to show them that that's the right thing to do. And our votes count. And especially as women, our voices matter,” Bazzoli said.

Maria joined KUNR Public Radio in December 2022 as a staff reporter. She is interested in stories about underserved communities, immigration, arts and culture, entertainment, education and health.