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Mother Jones: Advocates See SB 4 As Key Latino Vote Opportunity

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At Mother Jones today is a longread about SB 4, the politics of the Latino vote in Texas, and how organizers are trying to use the new anti-immigrant law to build a stronger future for the Latino vote in the state.

As the article mentions, advocacy groups like Jolt are in the middle of “Basta Texas”, a summer-long campaign inspired by the 1964 voter-registration push in Mississippi and aimed at stopping SB 4. The group aims to have 125 voter registrars signed up in Austin and Dallas by the end of the year and 2,000 active members. Its 2017 efforts are a trial run for a far larger effort ahead of next year’s elections.

Jolt organizers and other advocates in the state see SB 4 as a key opportunity to mobilize the Latino vote in Texas, especially among younger voters. They’ve looked at how California used opposition to Proposition 187 in the ’90s to turn the state solidly blue, and how Arizona used a cultural and economic strike to make opposition to SB 1070 widely known. Texas will begin implementing SB 4 in a matter of weeks, so organizers are mobilizing against the clock.

Read the full story at Mother Jones, or excerpts below:

In a majority-minority state still dominated by an almost entirely white Republican government, activists believe SB 4 offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to mobilize disengaged communities. They talk openly of Texas following the lead of California and Arizona, two states where, to differing degrees, hardline immigration laws sparked a generational political awakening among Hispanic residents and toppled the chief backers of those policies. But such an awakening is contingent on organizers tackling a host of institutional and cultural barriers that have stymied party types for years. If SB 4 is to have that same impact on Texas, it will be because groups like Jolt figured out how to do it….

“When people look at SB 1070 and Prop 187, the fast, easy narrative is these attacks came and then people woke up,” [organizer and Jolt founder Cristina] Tzintzun says. “The real story is the attacks came, and then you had invested local community leaders and organizations that dug in deep and dug in long to mobilize and engage the community.”

Real change could take a while. In the meantime, organizers in Texas have to wrestle with the consequences of the law and the reality of the new environment. Bending to pressure from immigrant groups, five of Texas’ six largest cities have sued the state over SB 4, but it is still set to take effect in September. And if even SB 4 goes away, ICE will still be around. When 15 millennial activists—including some Jolt members—were arrested outside the state capitol in Austin in late July, as part of a series of nationwide protests organized by a group called Movimiento Cosecha, they did so knowing that it could compromise their legal status and put them at risk of deportation. Texas’ golden opportunity is a race against time.

“They were able to turn it around in California after 187, Arizona after 1070, but there were resources put in there to do the voter registration, to do the get-out-the-vote, to do the voter education, to do the citizenship,” says Carlos Duarte, the Texas state director for Mi Familia Vota. “And the reality is the country and the community just expects us Latinos to turn out—just because—without resources? It doesn’t happen that way.”

He adds, “Unless there are substantial resources invested in the state to organize, it’s not gonna happen. And then we would be wasting the best opportunity that we’ve had in a generation.”

Read more about SB 4, Texas’ anti-immigrant law, here.