Interest in citizenship spiked before election but future's uncertain
A surge in citizenship applications before Election Day culminated in hundreds of immigrants taking the oath of U.S. citizenship this week at the Pasadena Convention Center.
It is still unclear whether that interest will continue in the wake of last week's election that saw Republican nominee Donald Trump win the presidency.
A major effort by advocacy groups to encourage immigrants to sign up for citizenship and vote helped drive the numbers of those seeking to naturalize.
According to the most recently available federal data, applications for U.S. citizenship picked up as the election neared. Nearly 10,000 more people applied for citizenship in Southern California between April and June of this year than they did in the same period a year earlier.
Manuela Resendez of Norwalk, a longtime U.S. resident who arrived in 1983 from Mexico, waited for years to naturalize. Finally, she applied last summer.
“I wanted to vote," said Resendez, 62, as she waited in line for her citizenship certificate after the ceremony in Pasadena.
Resendez said until now, she was the only person in her family who was not a U.S. citizen. Although she was a legal resident, the anti-immigrant rhetoric from Trump's presidential campaign still worried her.
"I didn’t want to go back to my country," Resendez said. "He wanted to deport immigrants. Since they change the laws so much, I wondered if maybe just with me being a resident, something might happen."
Immigration officials said it’s too soon to know if the pace of citizen applications will continue. Some groups that help immigrants with their applications also aren’t sure.
Arlene Santos with the Central American Resource Center said she was calling would-be citizenship applicants after the election to confirm their appointments for a workshop last weekend.
"And when I called people to confirm their applications, I had quite a few people say they didn’t want to apply any more — what was the point?" Santos said they asked.
But Santos said this week, she started to get more citizenship inquiries again. Some people told her they'd like to naturalize so they can feel more secure under a Trump administration, she said.
Resendez, the new citizen, she’s glad she got her papers. She said she feels safe now. Although she missed being able to vote this time around, she looks forward to participating in the next election.
"Now, I do have a right to vote," she said.