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Surge of Mexicans, immigrants for citizenship to vote for president

immigrant vote
Luis Litez, 10, center, from Oaxaca, Mexico repeats the Oath of Allegiance accompanied by his father Lamberto Litez, left and his mother second from the right, on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014, during a citizenship ceremony at the Los Angeles Public Library, in downtown Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Edwin Tamara)

The number of immigrants seeking citizenship has surged this year, driven by desire to vote in the fall presidential election, according to a new report.

In the first two quarters of the year, applications from legal immigrants to become naturalized citizens have jumped 21 percent over last year. From October to March, 440,000 immigrants applied. Over 653,000 immigrants were naturalized in the United States last year, winning the same rights as native-born Americans, including to vote.

The Migration Policy Institute said that a drive to vote in November and a new Obama policy aimed at providing citizenship has fueled the surge.

"In recent months, naturalization applications grew significantly. The 440,000 applications received in the first two quarters of FY 2016 (October 2015 to March 2016) represented a 21 percent increase compared to the same period in FY 2015 (363,000). This increase can partly be attributed to the citizenship awareness campaign launched by the White House Task Force on New Americans, as well as a desire to vote in the 2016 national elections," said the Institute.

Historically, Mexicans dominate the application pool. In 2012, for example, about 31 percent of those granted citizenship were from Mexico.

The new immigrants can have a big impact on the upcoming election, especially since Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton clash on immigration policies and what to do with illegal immigrants.

The Institute noted that many applicants live in key battleground states like Florida.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com