As we noted yesterday, a report has noted that while the number of eligible Latino voters is 40 percent higher in 2016 than in 2008, our voting muscle remains undermobilized. However, more and more evidence is showing that Latinos are becoming energized thanks to help from the unlikeliest of people: Donald Trump.
“Donald Trump’s scathing rhetoric about Latin American immigrants is galvanizing a movement in the community to pursue American citizenship and register in key battleground states,” noted the Guardian in a recent piece.
In Iowa just yesterday, Latinos responded to a Trump appearance in Marshalltown with a silent rally — and voter registration drive.
A new must-read piece from Buzzfeed’s Adrian Carrasquillo offers further evidence that Latinos and immigrants are mobilizing in key battleground states from Nevada to Colorado to Florida in direct to response from the anti-immigrant rhetoric from the leading Republican Presidential candidate:
Near the Las Vegas strip, five women who share a number of qualities sat down for an interview.
The women are all Latina. They’re foreign-born. They’re members of the 53,000-strong Culinary Workers Union Local 226. They work as housekeepers (four of them at Donald Trump’s Las Vegas hotel).
And they’re all in the process of becoming naturalized U.S. citizens.
These women are just five of what labor and immigration activists say are a few of the thousands of Latinos they hope to help naturalize, in pivotal swing states like Nevada, Florida, and Colorado. The reason, they say? Trump made them do it.
“I have realized people have erroneous thoughts about all Latinos, they want to pigeonhole us into things we aren’t like rapists and drug dealers,” said Maria Mendoza, one of the five women, in Spanish. Mendoza was referring to Trump’s now infamous announcement speech, in which he said Mexico was sending rapists and criminals across the border.
She’s lived in the United States for 18 years, and worked at Trump’s hotel for five; one woman in the group has lived here for more than 35 years. Mendoza said her decision to become a citizen originated from the current political landscape. “They don’t realize we come to this country for a dream, and as Latinos, we want to reach that dream,” she said.
If Trump has tapped into disaffected voters this year with his immigration rhetoric, there is also an unintended consequence — a mix of naturalization efforts, voter registration efforts, and ultimately efforts to mobilize voters off Trump’s rhetoric.
In the last 14 years, the local Culinary Union’s umbrella union, Unite Here, has helped push for 15,000 naturalizations. This year, Unite Here wants to help 2,500 people naturalize by June 1, so they can become U.S. citizens before the election — in addition to registering 10,000 new voters.
The list goes on: The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC) wants to help naturalize 1,500 people, along with five to seven partner organizations. SEIU Florida has helped almost 1,000 people already through citizenship workshops the union does in churches, where people are more trusting of immigration-related services. The Florida Immigrant Coalition — which works with SEIU, AFL-CIO, and other groups — hopes to add 1,500 to that number along with its partners.
And then there’s Mi Familia Vota, an advocacy group with a long history of voter registration and naturalization efforts, aiming to help 300 people begin the months-long naturalization process at their first event of the year. Along with partner organizations, the group will help launch the effort in Las Vegas two days before the Republican primaries begin. The nationwide effort led by iAmerica, labor groups like SEIU, and Mi Familia Vota will include events in Colorado, Florida, Texas, and California.
“We’ve seen more people this year that want to become citizens and specifically because they want to vote against Trump,” said Mi Familia Vota executive director Ben Monterroso.
“Republicans race to the bottom on immigration will hurt them in November, no matter who the nominee is,” commented Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice, yesterday.
“All the GOP candidates have fallen prey to the ‘Trump Effect,’ closing them off from pro-immigration voters, including those whose parents, relatives, and friends are being demonized. This is not just a debate about ‘politics,’ it’s personal.”