PA Follows Nationwide Trend In Election-Year Citizenship Bump

Oct 26, 2016

Holding her newly minted citizenship certificate and voter registration application, Sumebha Gupta grinned.

“I just wanted to give my vote to be counted,” she said. 

Gupta is one of 39 people who became a United States citizen this month, many of whom cited the upcoming presidential election as their major motivation. 

“I feel excited," said Omar Coker, originally form Sierra Leone. He said registering to vote was "definitely a must."

Naturalization applications tend to surge during presidential election years, according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service.

“USCIS has seen an uptick this year compared to last in naturalization applications,” said Michael Horvath, field office director for the USCIS in Pittsburgh.

City officials recorded 862 applications for citizenship by June, compared to 722 in the first six months of 2015. 

Federal data show applications for immigrants nationwide have increased by 6 percent since 2012. In 2015, USCIS welcomed 729,995 new citizens, including 18,307 in Pennsylvania alone. 

Some of the political rhetoric espoused during this year’s presidential election motivated native Spaniard Susana Mazuelas, now of West Virginia, to officially become a citizen and register her vote. 

She took her oath amid vintage vehicles and other artifacts of Americana in the great hall of the Senator John Heinz History Center in October beside immigrants from 23 other countries, including Bhutan, Colombia and the Czech Republic.

"Everyone can have their own opinion, but when the opinion (is) so extreme, it makes you feel fear," Mazeulas said. "I’m not going to lie if I’m letting you know this is one of the things why take me to be a citizen."

The naturalization process takes about six months and is a rigorous process, said JoAnn Kazimer, USCIS officer.

Eligible citizens who are over 18 and have lived in the United States as permanent residents for five years fill out form N-400, the application for naturalization.

Applicants are then examined under oath by an immigration officer and have to demonstrate an understanding of American history, government and the English language, with some exemptions.