A recent report from Pew Research documented the growing power of the Latino electorate, finding that the number of eligible Latino voters is 40% higher in 2016 than it was in 2008. The report also found that Latino voting power remains under-mobilized, with turnout rates among eligible Latino voters lagging nearly 20 percentage points behind those of white and African-American eligible voters. As a result, one of the most important questions in assessing the 2016 election cycle will be the extent to which Republicans’ embrace of anti-immigrant politics will backfire, motivating eligible Latino non-voters to register and mobilizing Latino registered voters to turn out.
A new article in The Guardian, titled, “Donald Trump’s Remarks Spur Latino ‘Naturalization Blitz’ Before Election,” offers evidence that the Republican lurch to the right on immigration – embodied by Donald Trump, but embraced by the entire GOP field – is, in fact, helping to energize Latino voters. The article, by Daniel Hernandez, focuses on Nevada – not only a likely presidential battleground state, but also a state with an open Senate seat that is likely to be closely contested.
We excerpt the Guardian piece below:
“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.
In what campaigners are calling a ‘naturalization blitz’, workshops are being hosted across the country to facilitate Hispanic immigrants who are legal, permanent residents and will only qualify to vote in the 2016 presidential election if they upgrade their immigration status.
Citizenship clinics will take place in Nevada, Colorado, Texas and California later this month, with other states expected to host classes in February and early March in order to make the citizenship deadline required to vote in November.
The Republican frontrunner’s hostile remarks about Latino immigrants is driving people to the workshops.
This Saturday, 300 legal permanent residents are set to attend one of the workshops in Las Vegas, where they will be provided with naturalization paperwork, lawyers will offer on-site counsel and, in some cases, financial aid will be made available to help cover the $680 application fee.
Trump, who has branded Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals, and has made the construction of a wall along the southern US border a pillar of his campaign for the White House, is increasingly viewed as the likely Republican candidate for 2016. His anti-immigrant statements have received even more coverage in Spanish-language media than they did in English-language press.
Our messaging will be very sharply tied to the political moment, urging immigrants and Latinos to respond to hate with political action and power,’ said Maria Ponce of iAmerica Action, an immigrant rights campaign sponsored by the Service Employees International Union.
… ‘This is a big deal,’ said Jocelyn Sida of Mi Familia Vota, a partner in the Nevada event. ‘We as Latinos are always being told that we’re taking jobs or we’re anchor babies, and all these things are very hurtful. It’s getting to the point where folks are frustrated with that type of rhetoric. They realize the only way they can stop this is by getting involved civically.’
Efforts to increase minority participation in swing state elections are nothing new. Nevada’s powerful Culinary Union has been holding such events for its 57,000 members and their families since 2001. Yet never before has there been a galvanizing figure of the bogeyman variety quite like Trump.
‘It’s shameful,’ said Maria Polanco, a Honduran woman pursing citizenship after 26 years in the US. ‘Those comments hurt us a lot. We are not perfect, but the majority of us are not what Donald Trump says. We came looking for better opportunities for us and our kids. My great pride is that my daughter graduated from college – I don’t think she could’ve done that in my country.’
Advocates say their citizenship events in late 2015 attracted droves of people like Polanco who have been eligible to apply for citizenship for decades, yet only felt compelled to do so now.
…There are 8.8 million legal permanent residents in the US, according to the Department of Homeland Security, and 90,000 of them are in the swing state of Nevada. David Damore, a political science professor at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, said in terms of partisanship, what is happening is a boon to Democrats.
‘One of the biggest incubators of political attitudes is family, with children at least initially following the lead of their parents,’ Damore said. ‘This dynamic is missing for many immigrants, and as a consequence their political socialization is shaped by the current political environment.’
Damore noted that ‘immigrants are hearing a welcoming message from one party and hostile rhetoric from the other, and this can have profound long-term consequences in terms of partisan identification and voting behavior’.
His research has shown that anti-immigrant messaging and policies can increase not only the rates of political participation among Latinos, but also rates of naturalization. “And naturalized Latinos often vote at a higher rate than native born Latinos,” he added.”
Similarly, congressional immigration reform champion Rep. Luis Gutierrez predicted that “the way we respond to racism is by voting and in Latino and immigrant communities, we are getting that message loud and clear,” and Janet Murguía, the President and CEO of NCLR, similarly noted that, “Latinos are responding against this demonization in the most American of ways: immigrants who are eligible are becoming citizens, and those who are citizens are registering to vote.”
“Republicans race to the bottom on immigration will hurt them in November, no matter who the nominee is,” said Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice. “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.”