Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Undocumented immigrants leading fight to get legal immigrants to vote, affect presidential election

Undocumented immigrant Juan Gallegos
campaigns to get legal immigrants to vote
(High Country News photo: Paige Blankenbuehler
Undocumented immigrants are making their voices heard in the presidential election, despite being unable to vote, Paige Blankenbuehler reports for "Small Towns, Big Change," a High Country News series by seven news organizations in Colorado and New Mexico. Spurred to action by Donald Trump's anti-immigration stance, a group calling themselves "Dreamers,"  named after the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act rejected by the Senate in 2010, are trying to make a difference in swing states like Nevada, Arizona and Colorado.

About 12 percent of the nation's voters are Latino, with 40 percent of them living in the West, Blankenbuehler writes. There are more than 27.3 million eligible Hispanic voters this year—up from 19.5 million in 2008—and 63 percent say they will vote this year, compared to less than 10 percent who voted in 2008, according to the Pew Research Center. The rise in voters is directly linked to statements by Trump that he will deport illegal immigrants.

Dreamer organization Promise Arizona has increased the state's number of Latinos registered to vote to 1.3 million, up from 800,000 in 2008, Blankenbuehler writes. "In Nevada, home of the largest percentage of undocumented immigrants, nearly 197,000 Latinos registered this year, compared to about 143,000 in 2008. Colorado doesn’t track registered voters by race, but 555,000 Latinos were eligible for this year’s primary, compared to 404,000 in 2008."

Hillary Clinton has embraced the movement, in August launching "a campaign called 'Mi Sueño, Tu Voto' ('My Dream, Your Vote') that solicits the help of young undocumented immigrants to spur registration among eligible Latino voters," Blankenbuehler writes. Juan Gallegos, an undocumented immigrant who moved from Mexico to Nebraska at 12 and earned a college degree in the state, now works as a Dreamer. "At the campaign office recently, he could be heard pleading with a Spanish-only speaker: 'We could really throw away this election if we don’t mobilize. If Donald Trump is elected, will he come after us?'”

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