Asians, Latinos, immigrants vote in record numbers

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The We Are America Alliance (WAAA), a nonprofit, nonpartisan national coalition of 14 groups said in a post-election press conference that there was a record turnout of Asian, Latino and immigrant voters on Nov. 4.

Shifting demographics, a rapid growing immigrant population and the ongoing frustration with the tone of the immigration debate has created a shift toward civic engagement within immigrant communities across the country.

An extensive grassroots mobilization that focused on citizenship, voter registration and get out the vote efforts, led by WAAA, targeted various segments of the immigrant community throughout the U.S.

The historic 2006 May 1 marches and nationwide demonstrations for the rights of undocumented workers sparked a growing movement that motivated immigrants to become citizens and register to vote.

Together with local, state and national initiatives for civil, human and workers’ rights WAAA brought together 14 organizations that targeted 13 states and coordinated voter turnout.

Paco Fabián, spokesperson for WAAA said one million people were contacted in an effort to focus on getting these voters to the polls and engage them in the political process.

Fabián said the group registered over half a million people before Election Day and has been mobilizing the immigrant community for the last two years as a direct result from the historic demonstrations in 2006 and 2007.

“This is just the first step in order to continue to keep immigrants and Latinos involved in the political process,” Fabián told the World in a phone interview.

Fabián said the number of Latino voters in 2008 nationwide almost doubled since 2000 and was about 30 percent higher than in 2004. About 40 percent of Latino voters in 2008 were foreign born, added Fabián.

“This turnout says that people who come to this country as immigrants want to be a part of this country’s American dream,” said Fabián who was born and raised in Mexico City but was born a U.S. citizen because his mother was from here.

Latinos helped make a difference in places like Virgina, Indiana, Georgia and other Southern states said Fabián. “And that in itself was a victory,” he said.

Fabián pointed out that the Latino vote went 73 percent for Obama in Virginia and helped turn battleground states like Florida, Colorado and New Mexico from red to blue.

Over 68 percent of the infrequent voters contacted by WAAA either voted early or turned out the vote on Election Day.

Inhe Choi from Chicago’s Korean American Resource and Cultural Center told a Nov. 7 press conference that Obama’s candidacy sparked record voter turnout in Asian American communities. From young people to seniors, she said, Asian American voters have high hopes that life can be better for other minorities with an African American president.“Without a doubt the economy was on the top of the list, not just for immigrants and Latinos but for every American,” said Fabián.

He said McCain lost support from Latinos because he’s Republican and many see his party responsible for all the anti-immigrant rhetoric dating back to 2006.

“Now we’re looking forward to a change in the Bush doctrine and even though we agree the economy is a priority, including more jobs for all, we hope immigration reform is also high on the agenda,” said Fabián.

The recent voter turnout last Election Day has set the bar for an active group of new citizens, children of immigrants, and a new wave of infrequent voters. And this trend is expected to grow, said Fabián.

Meanwhile he warned that if policies are not implemented to help immigrant and Latino families one might see voters in these communities swing the other way in 2012.

“The most important thing is to continue to engage the Latino and immigrant community in the political process even by becoming local school board members or lobbying for legislation on the municipal, state and national levels,” said Fabián. “It’s important that our voices are heard.”

plozano@pww.org