High Expectations for Latino Vote
By Jacqueline Garcia, EGP Staff Writer
Following the “disappointing” U.S. Supreme Court’s announcement that it was divided 4-4 and therefore a lower case decision blocking President Obama’s plan to expand the relief from deportation to the undocumented parents of U.S. born citizens and permanent residents will stand, activists say the future of immigration reform could now depend on the Latino vote.
If judges had overturned the Fifth Circuit’s decision in U.S, v. Texas, as many as 4 million undocumented immigrants would have been shielded from deportation and allowed to obtain work permits under Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs announced in November 2014.
Lea este artículo en Español: Hay Altas Expetativas en el Voto Latino
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has said she supports Obama’s immigration programs, while Donald Trump, the GOP’s presumptive nominee, says he will deport all undocumented immigrants if elected president.
Latinos are the second fastest growing group in the U.S. and according to political analysts, Trump needs to get 47% of the Latino vote if he hopes to win the White House in November.
In California, nearly one in every four registered voters (24%) is Latino. There are also 1.5 million legal permanent residents who are Latino and eligible to become citizens, but have not yet started the process, which among other benefits would give them the right to vote, something immigration rights activists are counting on.
Araceli Quijada, 54, has been a legal permanent resident for 36 years. The Boyle Heights resident says health issues and lack of time have kept her from applying for citizenship, but “I hope to do it this year,” she told EGP in Spanish.
83-year old Maria Montoya has been a legal permanent resident for 15 years and says she fears the citizenship process. “At my age, it is difficult to learn the questionnaire in English,” she told EGP in Spanish.
Told twice —by nonprofit Hermandad Mexicana and a lawyer—that she had to take the written and oral tests in English, she decided not to apply, noting that it’s hard to find the right kind of help for someone of her age.
A recent analysis by the Willian C. Velasquez Institute (WCVI) showed “anemic growth” of Spanish Surname voters in California.
The analysis, using information from Political Data, Inc, showed a 3.1% increase – from 4.11 million to 4.24 million – in Spanish Surname voters between April 2015 and June 2016.
The numbers show the trends in Latino participation, WCVI President Antonio Gonzalez told EGP, explaining the increase in “net new voters.”
“Many more new Spanish Surname voters are registered to vote but they are not in that ‘net total’ either because they moved and didn’t re-register, left the state or passed away, shrinking the number of California Spanish Surname registered voters prior to the June 7 Primary Election, he said.
However, NALEO Educational Fund Spokesperson, Paula Valle told EGP the number of new Latino voters may be higher, adding they expect more than 3,839,000 Latinos in California to vote in the November Presidential Election.
“This would mark a 22 percent increase in Latino turnout in the state from Election 2012, and a 12 percent increase in the Latino share of the vote in the state from Election 2012,” she said.
Both agree a bigger effort to mobilize the Latino vote in California is needed.
“… Scant resources have found their way to Latino registration groups early in the election cycle despite promises from national funding sources as well as parties and candidates,” opined Gonzalez. He said increases in overall voter registration “was likely among non-Latinos and/or reflected lots of re-registrations of those who had moved.”
Of the total projected number of eligible Latino voters in the U.S. in 2016, about 44% or 27.3 million are millennials, between the ages of 18 and 34, according to the Pew Research Center.
“Eligible voting age unregistered Latinos will usually register to vote if they are directly contacted,” but they won’t register if they do not feel a connection to the political/electoral process, explained Gonzalez about the unmet voting potential.
Organizations are not focusing exclusively on Latinos and are spending more time on voter education than actual voter registration, Gonzalez told EGP, adding that they are exaggerating their success to please donors.
Research conducted by the National Immigration Forum found that 91% of legal permanent residents want to become U.S. citizens, but 61% have never received information about the process.
The New Americans Campaign—a coalition of several nonprofits that assist in the naturalization process—helps to bridge that information gap and show legal permanent residents that becoming a citizen isn’t as expensive or as difficult as they think, Communications Associate Meredith Brandt told EGP.
Becoming a U.S. citizen brings it’s own benefits, including the right to vote, she pointed out.
“This right gives immigrant communities the power to voice their priorities on all issues that affect their families and their communities,” she said.
32-year old Claudia Carrasco, a permanent resident for 14 years, told EGP she’s lately become more interested in becoming a citizen.
“I’m still shocked that even with [Trump’s] racist remarks and bigoted comments towards all minorities, he was chosen as the republican nominee” for president, she told EGP.
Carrasco won’t be able to vote in November but says she plans to campaign for the Democratic ticket. She agrees that Latinos who don’t speak English need more information about the importance of citizenship and voting.
Gonzalez says he hopes WCVI’s study will help give community leaders the information they need to address California’s problem of slow growth in Latino voter registration.
The number crunchers say Latinos are cynical about voting because they don’t see anything being done to counter attacks against them, said Gonzalez. “Maybe we are…but is the response to that really going to be nothing? We hope not, because between our size and the number of growing eligible voters, the power to change this is already ours.”
For more information about how to become a citizen visit:
NALEO or call its toll-free bilingual hotline (888) 839-8682
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June 30, 2016 Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.