Grassroots immigrant rights organizations from around the country, part of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), have worked tirelessly for months to register over 75,000 Latino and immigrant voters and to turn 175,275 people out to the polls on Election Day, November 6. In a press call Thursday afternoon, representatives of the organizations discussed their goals for the election and their achievements thus far. Rudy Lopez, National Political Director for the Campaign for Community Change summarized their mission, “Our work and the motivation of our voters can be boiled down to one message: keeping families together.”
Political pundits and analysts would have you believe that this election is exclusively about jobs and the economy—but for Latinos and other people of color who have been targets of racial profiling, for the immigrants who’ve lived in fear of deportation, and for the millions of people who’ve been personally affected by the deportation of a loved one, this election signifies something entirely different: that our families are at stake.
On election night and the days after, many of these immigrant rights groups will host vigils and rallies in cities across the country celebrating the culmination of voter registration and turn-out efforts, as well as the political strength of the community and their commitment to comprehensive immigration reform.For many immigrants and Latinos, this election is deeply personal. The previous two years have seen the rise of anti-immigrant politicians and legislation nation-wide, coinciding with over a million deportations of non-criminals that have shattered families. Angelica Salas, Chair of the Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights of Las Angeles Action Fund, described the commitment of advocacy groups to reform and emphasized the potential of immigrant rights voters, “Mothers, fathers, sons and daughters have been cruelly and permanently separated from their families by the failure to pass immigration reform. This election is a marker for our escalating power, our surging unity and our renewed commitment. We will not cease until we achieve immigration reform that keeps our families together.”
“Latinos and immigrants will vote in unprecedented numbers,” predicted Lawrence Benito, Executive Director of the Illinois Immigration Action, “because their families are at stake. The villains in this story are all those who seek to divide us: politicians who dehumanize immigrant families to score political points; hate-mongers panicked by demographic shifts; and corporations who profit from the detention of our family members.”
Polls indicate that President Obama has a massive lead over Governor Romney among Latino voters—73% to 21%. This comes as no surprise considering that for many Latinos, immigrants, and people of color, this election is a choice between an incumbent who—while overseeing record-high deportations—initiated the DACA program, supported comprehensive reform and DREAM Act legislation, challenged Arizona’s SB 1070 in the Supreme Court, and promised to achieve comprehensive immigration reform in his second term, and a challenger who has taken every opportunity to position himself in the way of reform, who’s advocated for self-deportation, promised to veto the DREAM Act and abolish DACA, and cozied up with anti-immigrant figures like Kris Kobach , Steve King, and Joe Arpaio.
In addition to measuring the success of the registration and organization efforts undertaken by the FIRM coalition and other organizations, the results of this election will serve as a referendum on what the future of immigration reform in this country will be—reform or self-deportation.