03/11/10 a 11:58am por Maribel Hastings
PHOENIX – In Arizona, the epicenter of the immigration debate, home to Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and birthplace of the anti-immigrant bill SB 1070, one would expect that Latino voters would turn out at the polls on November 2nd against candidates who support that law and the rhetoric promoting it. That remains to be seen.
The leading candidate in the campaign for governor is Republican Jan Brewer, who signed SB1070 into law, generating fear and controversy as well as a legal battle involving the federal government. Arizona’s appeal of a federal judge’s injunction of certain clauses of the law will be heard in November.
Her opponent, Democrat Terry Goddard, makes an appeal in Spanish with an ad saying: “I ask for your vote this November 2nd.” The announcer adds, “this November 2nd, enough with Jan Brewer.”
Several organizations want to ensure Hispanic participation by making calls to promote early voting; making door to door visits and holding events; or ensuring voters make it to their polling places on November 2nd.
Puente Arizona held an early voting event on a Saturday. Under a hot sun, music, and the presence of a handful of Democratic candidates, many voted.
One youth, Héctor Hernández, voted for the first time “because of the (immigration) laws they’re passing.” “Although it doesn’t affect me personally, I know many people who are suffering and feel it is my job as a citizen to vote for this change.”
His message to young people: “If you don’t like what’s going on, sitting and complaining about it won’t solve anything.”
Celia Arámbula always votes, and said the immigration debate “woke up the people who had not made the connection that the things affecting us are rooted in politics.”
Corina Díaz voted “because of the situation our community is in.” Obama has not fulfilled his promise to pass immigration reform, “but that’s why this election is important because we need to elect people who support this reform.”
The Comité de Defensa del Barrio (CDB) was encouraging people to vote.
“Our people are responding. There are people who had never been registered before and now they are,” said Jorge Martinez, of the CDB.
In another part of the city, Mi Familia Vota mobilized several teams of young volunteers to go door to door to ensure that Latino voters, who are less likely to vote, cast their ballots. Mi Familia Vota has registered more than 25,000 voters in a period of three months.
Particularly striking is the large number of young people involved.
Sheila Silverio, a volunteer for Mi Familia Vota, said, “It’s my first time voting. Many people tell me that their vote doesn’t count, but I tell them that if they don’t like SB 1070, they have to vote. I’m a teenage mother and I’m doing this for my son because I know there are many children who will suffer under SB 1070. ”
Laura Catalina Reyes is in the process of becoming a citizen, but volunteers with Mi Familia Vota. “Many people have the power, and I try to encourage them because it’s necessary to change the system. My mom has never voted and will now for the first time.”
The next day, Sunday, the youth of Mi Familia Vota returned to the trenches. We joined one of the teams to talk with voters.
“These are Latino voters that if it weren’t for us coming to their door, maybe they wouldn’t vote,” said Mi Familia Vota’s Francisco Garcia.
The deadline for registration has passed, “but SB1070 was a motivation for them to register because it’s an attack close to home.”
Some voters were certain that the way the candidates handle the issue of immigration will be a factor in deciding whether to vote.
“I disagree with SB 1070,” said one voter. “One of the reasons why I’ll vote is because there are better solutions to the immigration problem. She (Brewer) shouldn’t have done it. It has caused many problems for Arizona. And she signed it,” he said.
In another home, Saúl opened the door, saying he will vote because even though he is a citizen, “SB 1070 affects my family because many of them are undocumented and live in fear of being deported.”
In the next house hung a sign that read “No to Arpaio and SB 1070.” An Anglo woman, who turned out to be a California resident and voter, opened the door. It was her mother’s house.
She thanked the group for their effort to mobilize Hispanic voters and added:
“If Latino voters registered and voted, we could regain control of this state.”
Maribel Hastings is a senior advisor and analyst for America’s Voice.