Political Orientations and Latino Immigrant Incorporation

  • Sarah Allen Gershon
  • Adrian D. Pantoja

Latino immigrant incorporation into the American political structure is vital for the political future of the Latino community in the United States, a group marked by considerable numbers of noncitizens as well as relatively low voter turnout among citizens. To gain a more significant political voice for the American Latino population, immigrants must become politically incorporated through naturalization and political activism. The term political incorporation has been used by scholars to refer to many things, including naturalization, formal participation in politics, group representation in elected office and policy outcomes, as well as participation in nonelectoral activities and organizations (Barreto & Muñoz, 2003; DeSipio, 1996a; Jones-Correa, 1998; Ramakrishnan & Espenshade, 2001). Although political incorporation might include a number of activities, in this chapter we measure immigrant incorporation into the American political system through two basic behavioral indicators: naturalization and nonelectoral political participation. The acquisition of U.S. citizenship is a critical first step toward the political incorporation of immigrants, as it confers upon them the right to vote and hold elective office. For politically underrepresented groups like Latinos, the presence of a large segment of noncitizens is particularly troubling, significantly limiting their electoral strength. The 2000 U.S. Census reports that out of 23 million adult Latinos, only 13.2 million, or 57%, are U.S. citizens. In other words, close to half of the voting-age Latino population is ineligible to vote because they are noncitizens. Having a large noncitizen population in itself is not significant if naturalization is undertaken rather quickly. Yet, naturalization rates among Latinos, with the exception of Cuban Americans, have tended to be among the lowest, approximately half the naturalization rate of non-Latino immigrant groups. The length of time that it takes for Latinos to naturalize has important political implications for the Latino community in the United States. Should naturalization rates change, Latinos stand to gain significant political power due to the increasing size of the Latino electorate. It is of little wonder that scholars of Latino politics have long considered lack of citizenship to be the single most important obstacle to Latino political empowerment.


Political Participation Political Orientation Undocumented Immigrant Mexican Immigrant Latino Immigrant 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah Allen Gershon
    • 1
  • Adrian D. Pantoja
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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