National Partnership for New Americans: Executive Order Promoting Voting Presents Opportunities for USCIS to Engage Naturalized Citizens
WASHINGTON – This weekend, on the 56th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, President Biden signed an executive order to expand voting access across all federal agencies, including U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
The order directs federal agencies to consider how to promote voter registration and vote by mail options – provisions that have long been advocated for by the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA) and its members. This could also include multilingual information aimed at encouraging voting by citizens of all backgrounds and allowing community-based organizations (CBOs) to conduct voter registration on agency premises.
NPNA organized the New American Voters campaign that encouraged new citizens to vote in 2020 and called for USCIS to work with CBOs to conduct voter registration at naturalization oath ceremonies. The coalition also worked for the passage of the New Deal for New Americans Act, reintroduced by Senator Markey (D- Mass.) and Representative Meng (D -N.Y.) in late February, which would create voluntary, automatic voter registration for all newly naturalized citizens.
“President Biden’s executive order signifies that the long struggle for voting, equal participation, and taking down discriminatory obstacles continues,” said Nicole Melaku, executive director of NPNA. “The order directs all federal agencies to consider how to promote voting, and that includes USCIS, which should create voluntary, automatic voter registration for newly naturalized citizens and have voter registration at oath ceremonies. We urge USCIS to implement this order immediately and expand access to the fundamental right to vote.”
The order comes after the White House issued executive actions directing a review of all barriers to citizenship, publishing a notice that it will not implement fee increases proposed by the previous administration, and reinstituting the 2008 civics test. Naturalized citizens, overwhelmingly from Latin America and Asian and Pacific Islander countries, joined record numbers of voters of color in 2020, indicating that immigrants have benefited from civil rights victories achieved by African American communities, which, in turn, strengthens the values of a multicultural democracy.
The signing of the executive order commemorated the Bloody Sunday of 1965 when state troopers beat and tear-gassed peaceful protesters in Selma, Alabama, who were calling for greater voter access by African Americans.
“We must be vigilant to protect voter rights and honor the sacrifice of those who worked so hard to ensure voting access for all communities of color,” Melaku added.