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Nearly 800,000 Texas immigrants could gain citizenship in time to vote in the 2024 general election

A man on a bicycle passes a voting station in San Antonio, Texas.
Eric Gay/The Associated Press
Nearly 800,000 Texas immigrants could gain citizenship in time to vote in the 2024 general election, according to a news report from the American Immigration Council

Texas could see thousands of new citizens cast ballots in this year’s November election as the number of immigrants eligible for citizenship in the state nears 800,000.

That figure is second only to California’s number of immigrants likely eligible to become naturalized United States citizens this year, according to the latest data analyzed by the American Immigration Council, a Washington-based think tank. The number of immigrants who are likely eligible to naturalize in Texas — abut 790,000 — is larger than Republican Donald Trump’s roughly 631,200 vote margin-of-victory in Texas during the 2020 presidential election.

Mo Kantner, the senior director of policy and research at the council, said the report defines “likely” naturalized citizens as those who meet the criteria for citizenship but, for some reason, haven’t gone through the process.

“We're thinking about people that are long-term permanent residents, that have been here for over five years [and are] Green card holders, that have basically fulfilled all of the requirements,” she said. “We take into account if they are under the age of 18, if they don't have quite an English proficiency to be able to take the citizenship test, or if they lived in another country in the previous year, and they wouldn't necessarily qualify.”

However, the report doesn’t analyze the political leanings of those eligible to become citizens in time to cast their ballots. Kantner said determining whether an immigrant voting for the first time will favor a Republican, Independent or a Democrat isn’t predictable.

“We highlight in the report that the margin of victory, in some really key states like Texas, is smaller than the number of immigrants that are likely eligible to naturalize. But that's not to say that they would all vote one way or all vote another way,” she said. “They are not a monolith as some will vote … more conservative. Some will vote more progressive. But it's really there to highlight that if they were to naturalize, their vote could make a huge difference.”

Is there enough time before this year’s general election?

The deadline to register to vote in the November election, likely be a rematch between Donald Trump and President Joe Biden, is Oct. 7th. That still leaves time, Kantner said, but the window is closing. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the division of the Department of Homeland Security that processes applications for citizenship, is completing applications between six and 10 months after an immigrant applies.

“I can't make a guarantee that if folks applied today that they would be able to vote in the November election. But with each passing day, each passing week that goes by, that the likelihood goes down,” she said. “There is still an opportunity or a chance, I would say at this point, for some who have a pretty straightforward case, to be able to move through the process fairly routinely, to be able to get that citizenship by the October deadline.”

Kantner also said that immigrants who have recently arrived in the United States don’t fall into the category of likely voters. Since Biden took office, the number of unauthorized immigrants arriving in Texas and beyond has hit record numbers. That has led some Republicans and other far-right figures to embrace the theory that undocumented immigrants will tilt the outcome of this year’s election toward Democrats. Among them is Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who has posted recently on his X social media platform that Biden’s strategy is to allow unauthorized immigrants into the country and give them legal status.

Kantner said that, at minimum, a new citizen would have needed to be in the country legally since 2019.

“It’s not the people that are coming here recently or the folks that have crossed over in the last couple of years,” she said.

A recent analysis by PolitiFact threw more cold water on Musk’s disinformation campaign and said that the path to citizenship can take nearly a decade in some cases.

“The current influx of immigrants would not lead to a significant number of new voters for many years, if ever,” the analysis concluded.

The American Immigration Council’s report also concluded that immigrants who eventually gain citizenship also increase their earning power and contribute more in taxes.

“In 2022, immigrant households earned $2.1 trillion in total income. If the eligible immigrants became naturalized, they would benefit, on average, from an 8.9 percent increase in their individual earnings,” the report states.

“[Naturalized citizens] on average, are more likely to earn more income over the course of their lifetime because they're not tied to individual employers and because they can now apply for certain government jobs, things like that,” said Kantner. “And that that turns into an economic return for the country and for the state of Texas.”

Got a tip? Email Julián Aguilar at can follow Julián on Twitter @nachoaguilar.

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