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Newly naturalized U.S. citizens in Cleveland ready to cast their ballots

Posted at 3:20 PM, May 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-06 19:44:41-04

CLEVELAND — With their right hand in the air and Old Glory in the other, emotions swelled when 30 immigrants took a solemn oath to become U.S. citizens.

The men and women, representing nearly two dozen countries from around the world, gathered for a naturalization ceremony at Lincoln-West School of Global Studies on Cleveland’s West Side.

Among their promise, they will support and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States.

Hussein Alnuaimi was among those who can now proudly say they're an American.

"So happy. Thank you for the United States accepting me as a citizen. So proud," said Alnuaimi.

Within minutes of making it official, Hussein started flexing some of his new rights.

"Today, I registered for voting," said Alnuaimi.

At every naturalization ceremony there's a chance to complete the paperwork needed to cast a ballot in an upcoming election.

"A lot of our new citizens are eager to vote," said Milena Wick, Lincoln-West School of Global Studies.

According to the Pew Research Center, the number of immigrant-eligible voters has increased steadily over the past 20 years.

"9.8% of the U.S. Electorate is foreign born," said Juscelino Colares, Global Legal Studies, CWRU.

That's 23.8 million people. The majority are Hispanic and Asian, according to Colares.

In some cases, Colares says newly naturalized citizens are outpacing U.S. natives.

"The percent of Hispanics and Asians that actually end up voting among the foreign-born Americans is higher than the percentage of Hispanics and Asians who are U.S. born," said Colares.

While the stats show immigrants are having their say at the polls, Milena Wick tells me there are still many that do not.

"The other thing that we see is with language issues some of them aren't on top of local issues that are going on," said Wick.

It's one thing to have the right to vote, it's another to be able to successfully execute it.

"The conversations that people have in the community, I think that's something that really helps bridge the gap," said Wick.

Colares said there is room for improvement on multiple fronts when it comes to educating immigrants on voting.

"That is something as a society we can do better. We can do better also with native born citizens as well," said Colares.

If his level of excitement is any indication, Hussien Alnuaimi will be at his polling place to exercise his new right as soon as he can.

"Now I can officially vote," said Alnuaimi.