While most Americans who pay attention to politics were focused on the Iowa caucuses for the past few months, immigration activists, including DREAMers, have been actively engaged on the front lines in the state for the past several years.
The results have been two-pronged: 1) Defining candidates on the immigration issue; and 2) building lasting political power in the state.
America’s Voice has put together an interactive timeline documenting the work done in Iowa by immigration activists since early 2014. View the timeline here.
On the issue of political power, Buzzfeed’s Adrian Carrasquillo reported that turnout by Latino voters at the Iowa caucuses exceeded the goal of 10,000 participants, set by League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) – a target much higher than previous years. Per Buzzfeed:
After dismal Latino turnout numbers in Iowa the past two presidential caucuses, early indications suggest that a $300,000 nonpartisan effort to get Hispanics to caucus succeeded in getting record turnout.
The initiative by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) aimed to get 10,000 out of 50,000 registered Latino voters to caucus sites by repeatedly contacting them through phone calls and door knocks. NBC News exit poll shows that 4% of Democratic caucus-goers were Hispanic and 2% were on the Republican side. With both sides seeing huge turnout (171,000 for the Democrats and more than 180,000 for the GOP) that comes out to close to 10,500 Latinos.
Only 1,000 Latinos caucused in 2012. In 2008, when the race was competitive for both Democrats and Republicans, that number was 3,500.
LULAC, drawing from responses campaign field staff received from phone calls, door-knocking, and “Commit to Caucus” returns from mailers, believes the number is closer to 13,000.
“We did our part, Latinos played our part,” said LULAC Iowa political director Christian Ucles. “We knew when LULAC put together this program in Iowa, that they were ready to come out with a show of force for any candidate that supports the Latino community.”
On the issue of defining candidates, supporters of immigration learned the power of confronting candidates back in early 2012 when, in response to a question from an immigration activist, Mitt Romney vowed to veto the DREAM Act, a position that haunted him throughout his campaign.
Starting in 2014, activists regularly interacted publicly with candidates on both sides. For Democrats, this led to stronger support for immigration. But on the GOP side, candidates followed the path laid out by Romney, and catered to the extreme. As Matt Hildreth of America’s Voice and Iowa’s Voice noted onUnivision.com (cross-posted in English here), this is one key reason why the Iowa caucuses still matter:
As far back as August of 2014, immigration supporters confronted Rand Paul in Okoboji over his vote to end the widely successful Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). Since then, immigration supporters in Iowa have confronted every single major candidate running for President.
…Iowa still matters because we set the stage for this year’s general election – and what was said in Iowa by GOP candidates as they kowtowed to Steve King impacts voters in key swing states like Florida, Nevada and Colorado, to name a few. Thanks to Iowans, Latinos and other voters who care about immigration know where each candidate stands on this cycle’s most widely discussed issue.