On all the networks and major newspapers, the political pundits and special reports are zeroing in on the new soccer moms of the country—Latinos. Analysis and predictions whirl around the largest minority group that can potentially sway the vote of key battleground states. But there’s always one condition or challenge to their voting strength: “If they vote” or “Will they vote?”
The answer doesn’t have an “if,” it is simply yes, Latinos will vote.
And we will vote in record numbers. The Latino community throughout America is no longer a sleeping giant; in fact, we are awake and we are cranky. With almost half of the Latino population eligible to vote and over 50 million Latinos living in the country, there is no doubt that we are a political force with the power to influence the election.
I have seen it firsthand. In my travels from California and Colorado to Nevada and Florida, I have spoken to many Latinos who are either voting for the first time or doing their part by knocking on doors and getting the vote out. Most know what’s at stake in this election for them and their families and friends, and it’s not just one issue as some political pundits believe. There are layers of concerns among the Latino community that range between defending the Affordable Care Act and fighting for immigration reform.
Whether in Spanish or English, Latinos are paying attention to these issues. We are taking note of who is speaking to us and who is talking down at us. It really comes as no surprise that conservatives are having a hard time gaining our vote. They stand almost as the complete antithesis of what the Latino community needs because we certainly don’t need more racial profiling laws like Arizona’s SB 1070, the expiration of an administrative relief to the millions of DREAMers, an unjust tax system that rewards the 1 %, or the repeal of a healthcare law that will cover 9 million more Latinos. As much as some candidates try to manipulate their rhetoric, we can certainly read between the lines.
With so much at the mercy of the next president and congressional representatives, Latinos across America know that we must fulfill our responsibility and vote for ourselves and those that cannot cast a ballot this year. There are millions of our fellow brothers and sisters who dream about walking the path to citizenship and continue their contributions to our economy not as an invisible number, but as new Americans planting their roots in a nation built on values that embrace diversity and hard work.
The immigrant voices and faces, those of DREAMers and diligent immigrant workers in the fields and behind the doors of countless homes and private businesses, have not gone silent or unseen. The campaigns to register and mobilize Latino voters have been unique in that they include these voices, driving and motivating voters to go to polls.
I spoke to a Latino volunteer in Colorado who I accompanied as she knocked on some doors to register voters. As we walked, she spoke to me of her brother, an undocumented immigrant in America for over ten years, who told her that she needed to vote for him, she had to remember him and others like him when voting. Her daughter, a first-time voter, also encouraged her to do more for their community and her friends, DREAMers, who wished they had the same right she would exercise this November. And that’s exactly why she was out there, door to door, phone-bank after phone-bank, making sure Colorado Latinos got the message.
This is the type of story I have heard countless times. They are inspirational and push us not only to vote, but to make sure that whoever wins is held accountable. The time for waiting and hoping for immigration reform has led us to this point—a crucial fork in the road where we either continue to hold on to an idea or fight for a common-sense policy that will give DREAMers and immigrant families across the country a chance at citizenship. Make no mistake the latter is in our view.
We are not a fad, but a permanent voice in the political scheme. It’s up to us as Latinos to hold on to our place in history and lead our community forward with all the working families in America. We’re not going anywhere or “self-deporting.”
We will vote. But we won’t just stop there.