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Latinos nearly half of new U.S. citizens in 2008

April 9, 2009 |  9:09 am

The National Assn. of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) reports that Latinos made up nearly half of the more than 1 million people who became U.S. citizens last year.

According to the organization, the number of Latinos who became Americans in fiscal year 2008 more than doubled over the previous year, to 461,317.

That's nearly half of the record 1,046,539 new citizens overall in 2008, a 58% increase from 2007,  according to the Associated Press.

NALEO Educational Fund Executive Director Arturo Vargas said the 2008 elections that put Barack Obama in the White House boosted efforts by Latinos to acquire the right to vote.

“In 2007, thousands of Latino newcomers applied for U.S. citizenship because they wanted to make their voices heard in our nation’s democracy," he said in an NALEO statement.

According to NALEO's analysis of figures recently released by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics (OIS), Mexico was the leading country of birth of people becoming citizens in 2008 (231,815), and one out of five new U.S. citizens was from Mexico (22%).

The number of Mexican-born naturalized citizens increased by 90% between 2007 and 2008, while the number of new citizens from Cuba, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala more than doubled during the same period.

-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City