Latino groups are pushing to mobilize Hispanic voters

Latino groups are pushing to mobilize Hispanic voters ( (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images))

In critical weeks for immigration reform, coalition intends to mobilize voters

Facing the waning momentum on immigration, many have called August a do-or-die month. A coalition of Latino, Asian, labor and voting rights organizations announced Thursday they would band together to show the growing power of these voters.

Ten different Hispanic groups including Voto Latino and the nation’s largest Latino civil rights organization, National Council of La Raza, are joining part of a broad group which is organizing over 80 civic engagement events taking place across the nation in the next week.

“Issues can be powerful motivators for people to go to the polls,” said Clarissa Martinez de Castro, Director of Civic Engagement and Immigration at NCLR. “Ninety percent of Latino voters are more likely to get behind politicians if they support reform.”

Martinez de Castro said the message from Latinos was clear at NCLR’s annual conference this past week, where more than 5,000 Latinos from different community groups came together.

“Young Latinos have politically engaged on the issue,” Voto Latino’s Jamie Hernandez said. He explained that Voto Latino plans to harness the power of social media to inform more Hispanic youth on immigration so that they can in turn pressure House leaders.

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“Young Hispanics are the most avid users of social media. What we’ve done is create infographics that are easy to share,” he says, citing the viral image of the number 11 to stand for the eleven million undocumented images. The image is popularly shared on Facebook and used as profile pictures and Twitter avatars. “That image has been seen by over 20 million people online. People identify with the image. It’s galvanizing them to action.”

While each organization had its own unique spin on how to mobilize Latinos, one tactic will prevail in the coming weeks: voter registration. The plan is for Latinos to register in such numbers that they can reward lawmakers who come around to support their cause by electing them to office — and punish those who don’t.

The strategy is intended to build on an earlier one used by NCLR before the 2012 elections. The organization poured its resources into registering Hispanic voters. The wide Latino margin for President Obama has been credited as swinging the election in his favor, say many of these groups.

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Jamie Heredia of Mi Familia Vota, an organization that aims to increase Latino civic participation, said that his group has registered over 80,000 Latino voters in key states like Texas, Arizona, California, Florida, and Nevada. According to Voto Latino, 50,000 Latinos turn 18 every month — voters that they intend to reach and register.

Latino activists are not the only ones pushing for action. A bipartisan group of House lawmakers is planning a three-day tour this month in an effort to increase reform’s momentum in the House. Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Republican congressman Mario Diaz-Balart and Illinois Democratic congressman Luis Gutierrez are all part of the tour.

The Senate has already passed a bipartisan bill, but it has stalled in the Republican controlled House. Speaker Boehner has said he will not bring the Senate bill up for a vote because it isn’t strong enough on border security. The House, if it takes up immigration, will likely deal with it in a piecemeal fashion instead of passing one comprehensive bill. All House members will head home for summer recess in August.

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