The Obama Administration has decided to make U.S. citizens out of the more than 8 million legal immigrants residing in the United States. At least to try. They insist it is a non-partisan effort. Yet, it’s hard not to question the motive, being that the time-frame of this education effort is during a major election cycle.

1. White House insists it is not political

Photograph of a U.S. Department of Homeland Security logo.

2. Could add millions of voters for the next election

With about 8.8 million legal residents in the country who are eligible to become citizens, White House officials said they were trying to make it easier to complete the final steps to citizenship. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency in charge of naturalizations, will offer practice tests on cellphones for the civics exam that immigrants must pass, but which many find daunting, and will hold preparatory workshops in rural areas. Applicants will also be able to pay the fee – still a hefty $680 – with a credit card.

The White House is working with regional immigrant groups to organize more than 70 citizenship workshops and about 200 naturalization ceremonies in the coming week alone. Four citizenship ambassadors have been named, including Fernando Valenzuela, the Mexican-born former pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers who recently became an American citizen after many years in the United States.

Some Republicans said they were concerned about political overtones in the campaign.

“I think it’s healthy for a democracy for people to become citizens,” said Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles. “Sadly, I think the administration went overboard. A full-fledged campaign from the White House telling people to become a citizen, I think it is politicizing the naturalization process.” Mr. Aguilar, a Republican, was head of the citizenship office at the immigration agency for six years under the administration of President George W. Bush. He urged Congress to keep an eye on the campaign to make sure it did not go beyond civics education. via NYTimes.com

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