Immigrants say election motivated them to become citizens

Aaron Mesmer reports

- A group of immigrants took an oath to become American citizens during a naturalization ceremony Friday, and then many of them immediately registered to vote.

There were three ceremonies to naturalize about 150 people, some of whom have lived in  the U.S. for decades.

"I was crying through the whole ceremony," said Maria Kuhn-Brotton, who has lived in the U.S. since moving from Chile 33 years ago. "It was something that I didn't expect to touch me this much because I always felt American."

With immigration taking center stage at times during the election season, Kuhn-Brotton said she decided now was the right time to become a citizen.

"I want the right candidate to be my president," she said. "It'll be one vote, but my vote will count. And it will be awesome."

The election was a common theme among the crowd members. Maziena Siddiqui moved to the U.S. from the United Kingdom nearly 22 years ago and has four children and a husband who are already citizens. Like Kuhn-Brotton, Siddiqui wanted to become a citizen so she could vote.

"I just want to participate and give my opinion, as I plan to be here. This is where I belong. I'm not  moving anywhere else, so this is my country," she said, adding she wants her vote to help future  immigrants. "It's scary to hear what's going on. I would just like to keep it at that."

Craig Latimer, Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections, said there tends to be an influx of  people registering to vote right after naturalization ceremonies.

"They're finally get the right to exercise a vote and we're seeing a lot of activity at these events. Probably 98 percent, at least, will sign up and register at that time," Latimer said.

A federal judge in Florida recently ordered the voter registration deadline moved to Oct. 18 so residents impacted by Hurricane Matthew had more time to register.

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