Maribel Hastings and David Torres
With Citizenship and Constitution Day in the background, efforts are being redoubled so that eligible permanent residents can become citizens and fully participate in the democratic process to elect their leaders, especially in the run-up to the 2024 general elections. In the United States, there are 9.2 million people eligible to become citizens, and in fiscal year 2022, 970,000 people naturalized—the highest number since 2008, when a little more than 1 million permanent residents became citizens.
That is to say, there is a growing response to the need to feel and be part of this nation with full rights, not only to participate politically, but to further solidify the social experiment that the United States has been throughout its history.
But while organizations around the country promote naturalization on the one hand, and voter registration on the other, diverse extremist sectors are also preparing themselves. But in their case it is to intimidate voters and interrupt the course of the democratic process. It’s an incomprehensible reaction that has no basis other than racism and discrimination. It’s as if with their extremist attitudes, which have also proven to be violent, they would like to put an end to the history of this nation of immigrants.
For example, the newspaper La Opinión wrote about the report “Guns and Voting,” from the Brennan Center for Justice and Giffords Law Center, which concludes that in a polarized political environment like the one this country is living today, where disinformation is the order of the day and there are more guns than people, violence and voter intimidation are real threats.
The report indicates that only twelve states plus Washington, DC prohibit carrying guns, whether openly or concealed, in voting precincts. All states, the report adds, should prohibit guns in places where voting takes place and where votes are counted, and should pass stricter laws against intimidation.
In 2020, the lie promoted by Donald Trump and his followers—that the election was “stolen” and with it, the presidency—led to the riot on January 6, 2021, where people were killed and wounded and the only goal was to impede certification of Joe Biden’s legitimate triumph at the polls. All throughout his re-election campaign, Trump fomented the idea that if he lost, it would be because of “fraud” in the electoral system and, in fact, there were reports of attempts to intimidate or obstruct the process in those elections, especially in places where minorities predominate in the electorate.
That is, the central discourse of the ex-president was opening a disinformation breach among his own followers, which even today has a dangerous impact in the pre-electoral context in which campaigns of that type are already preparing to continue fomenting an erroneous idea of reality, just to score convenient political points.
For example, Trump is now facing criminal charges for his role in the attempted coup d’etat, but that has not stopped him from his disinformation campaign—spreading the same lie about a stolen election, now that he wants to be, once again, the Republican presidential nominee.
Moreover, there are various massacres that can be attributed to disinformation and extremist rhetoric against immigrants and minorities. The blood of Hispanics, African Americans, and Jews has been spilled by unbalanced fanatics who take the “invasion” and “great replacement” rhetoric literally. Rhetoric that both Trump and other Republican and far right conservative figures continue to disseminate irresponsibly.
Therein lies the importance of participating in the democratic process, to protect rights from those who want to undermine them, such as the right to vote.
In that context, last week the media is reporting on an uptick in undocumented people crossing the border with México. On Sept. 17, for example, the Border Patrol said that just in the evening between 2,200 and 2,500 undocumented people crossed the border en masse toward Eagle Pass, Texas, with the goal of turning themselves in to agents. A majority of them are people who want to apply for asylum. That is, people who come to engage in a process they have a right to access, according not only to the very laws of the United States, but as an international right, independently of how they arrive at the southern border. That is another issue, made a little more dramatic in images, which is taken advantage of by rightwing U.S. news media and politicians who promote the conspiracy theories of “invasion” and “replacement” to misinform.
Certainly, this is a complex situation, since increases have been anticipated since the expiration of the application of Title 42 at the border. At first, the massive wave that Republicans warned would come, for their own political reasons, did not materialize. The Biden administration has implemented a series of programs to decompress the border, among them humanitarian parole or permission to enter the country for citizens of Cuba, Venezuela, Haiti, and Nicaragua; and others like Safe Mobility Offices for people to initiate the asylum process in countries where offices have been opened for this purpose.
However, it has to be understood that thousands of migrants have arrived and continue to arrive. In some cases, like Texas, the Republican Governor Greg Abbott is sending them on buses to cities run by Democrats—once again for political reasons. But there are many others who have been waiting in México for a long time, and the increases in crossings are also cyclical. For example, now that fall is starting, many try to cross before winter intensifies, which is as deadly along the border as the heat of summer. The border, in fact, has its own rhythm and it’s always been like that. Not for nothing it is considered the most transited border on the planet.
But for extremists who want to exploit the topic politically, that matters very little. They see it as a weapon to promote disinformation, violence, and intimidation. But disinformation is combated with education. Therein lies the importance of participating in the democratic process, to protect rights from those who want to undermine them, such as the right to vote. It’s a collective job. Among the millions of people eligible to become citizens, register, and vote there are surely many who arrived in the United States fleeing dictators and totalitarian regimes. It’s about trying to keep the seed of hate and extremism from germinating in the nation that continues to be a beacon of hope around the world.
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