Civic groups, Spanish media push citizenship

/ Source: The Associated Press

Community groups and Spanish-language media organizations that helped push a record number of immigrants to become citizens last year said Tuesday that they want to build on that success.

More than 1 million immigrants became U.S. citizens in 2008, an increase of 58 percent from one year earlier, according to the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Immigration Statistics. The groups attributed the increase to a national citizenship campaign and an incentive to apply before a fee increase went into effect.

Coalition partners that include hundreds of grass-roots organizations and Spanish TV and radio outlets said they want this year's "Ya es Hora, Ciudadania!" drive, which means "It's Time, Citizenship!" in English, to help another million legal residents who are eligible for citizenship to go through the process.

"This road is not easy," said Clarissa Martinez, a national campaign director of the Washington-based National Council of La Raza. "We want to demystify the process."

Last year's campaign came from a community response to the massive immigrants' rights mobilizations of 2006 and was followed by a drive to register new citizens to vote.

Organizers said they want to build on that momentum by relaunching the campaign, which kicked off Tuesday through a conference call with civic and civil rights organizations and members of the media. Influential Spanish media companies, such as Univision Communications Inc., Entravision Communications, and impreMedia will spread the message.

Homeland Security statistics show that Latinos made up 44 percent of last year's new citizens. Mexican-born residents topped the list with 231,815 naturalizations.

Martinez called it the "largest and most comprehensive effort to incorporate Latinos as full participants in the American political process."