03/11/10 a 11:57am por Maribel Hastings
DENVER – It’s not every day one comes across this scene: two Dominican immigrant voters conducting a voter mobilization drive in the neighborhoods of Denver, Colorado. Their targets are largely second, third and fourth-generation Hispanics, and naturalized citizens who will vote for the first time on November 2nd.
Jackie Garza and Wendy Peterson move steadily; they are in a hurry to cover as many households as possible. They visit an average of 20 to 40 houses per hour, depending on the location. Their aim is to contact young voters, many who voted for the first time in 2008 or who registered recently, and voters in low-turnout-tendency demographics.
Both are volunteers with Mi Familia Vota, one of several national organizations that has been given the task of registering voters and ensuring they vote early or on November 2nd.
These organizations are spending $ 5.4 million toward efforts to mobilize the Latino vote across the country, particularly in states and districts with close contests where Latino voters could be decisive.
Jackie says that the economy and education are key issues for Hispanic voters in Colorado, but so is immigration. “For me it is very important because I am an immigrant, my parents are immigrants, my family are immigrants, and the United States is based on immigrants.”
In one of the homes we visited, the woman who answered said that “jobs are important, and I also think they have to deal with immigration. We’ve found ourselves in this predicament and now we have to fix it, but not at the expense of people who are only trying to look out for themselves and their families. The people here are not criminals and should have the opportunity to become citizens.”
The candidates’ positions on immigration, she said, will be a factor in deciding for whom she will vote.
Between houses, Wendy comments that she has come across Hispanic voters who “are not very happy with Obama.”
“They fell in love and were disappointed.”
Precisely because immigration reform has not yet passed, she says, the issue is still important to these voters.
“Most people with legal status have family members and friends without documents and wish that they, too, could realize their dreams of being in the country legally. This issue is mobilizing people because families want to be together,” says Wendy.
In another part of town, in a Mexican restaurant, the young, 18 year-old Hispanic waitress says she’s not certain whether she’ll vote because the candidates are focusing too much on personal attacks and not on explaining their platforms.
Her concern is about jobs, but immigration and the DREAM Act are important because she has undocumented friends “and I don’t want them to be stopped or something and sent back to Mexico.”
Diana, who owns a taco stand, tells us her motivation for voting is that “we want help with immigration, the economy, health and education, but most of all immigration. We don’t like the laws that are being passed. There’s a lot of prejudice.”
In one home in the neighborhood Jackie and Wendy visit, Ricardo says shyly that he became a citizen recently, registered and will be voting for the first time in November.
His motivations are “the economy and immigration.” “Let’s fix everyone’s status if we can… hopefully they all can get legal status, too.”
A woman with legal residency living in the same house adds: “I have friends and family who do not have their papers. Hopefully (reform) will happen, and it will be real. And, not just another promise.”
Maribel Hastings is a senior advisor and analyst for America’s Voice