Fast-tracking citizenship for nearly 9 million immigrants: Obama seeks to stack voting deck in 2016

Fast-tracking citizenship for nearly 9 million immigrants: Obama seeks to stack voting deck in 2016

White House officials announced the start of a nationwide campaign on Thursday to encourage legal immigrants to become American citizens, which could add millions of voters to the electorate in time for the presidential election next year.

With about 8.8 million legal residents in the country who are eligible to become citizens, White House officials said they were trying to make it easier to complete the final steps to citizenship. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency in charge of naturalizations, will offer practice tests on cellphones for the civics exam that immigrants must pass, but which many find daunting, and will hold preparatory workshops in rural areas. Applicants will also be able to pay the fee — still a hefty $680 — with a credit card.

The White House is working with regional immigrant groups to organize more than 70 citizenship workshops and about 200 naturalization ceremonies in the coming week alone. Four citizenship ambassadors have been named, including Fernando Valenzuela, the Mexican-born former pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers who recently became an American citizen after many years in the United States.

Also in the works are local initiatives to make immigrants feel more welcome, and a revision of Justice Department regulations that would make it easier for people who want to help immigrants naturalize to obtain credentials to provide basic volunteer legal assistance.

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