Growing discontent around President Donald Trump’s policies on immigration spawns voter activism among some Latinos in response to pivotal elections on the short- and long-term horizons. With civic organizational efforts around voter registration as well as individual moves toward attaining naturalized U.S. citizenship, many Latinos are seeking to elect officials with perspectives they feel are more aligned to immigrant interests.
Claiming the self-assigned task to “transform America by recognizing Latinos’ innate leadership,” activist organization Voto Latino added 3 new board members — all Washington D.C. veterans — prior to its rollout of a campaign aimed at registering 1 million voters by 2020.
“For the next 3 years, Voto Latino is going back to basics to enfranchise young American Latinos so they can fully participate in our democracy at the ballot box,” says Julian Castro, 1 of the organization’s new board members.
Castro, representative of an “American story” as the son of immigrants, Harvard Law School grad and work in public service, is former housing secretary and a potential contender in the next presidential campaign.
Other new board members include Sonal Shah who ran the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation under President Barack Obama as well as Brian Stansbury, a private-practice attorney based in Washington D.C., according to a Politico story.
Interestingly, a 2016 Pew Research Center report showed a record 27.3 million Latinos were eligible to vote during the last presidential election, a number representing 12 percent of all eligible voters and a statistic making the “U.S. electorate more racially and ethnically diverse than ever.” From 2012 to 2016, the number of eligible Hispanic voters increased by 4 million — an increase of 37 percent in the timespan.
“Latinos have favored the Democratic Party over the Republican Party in every presidential election since at least the 1980s, but their electoral impact has long been limited by low voter turnout and a population concentrated in non-battleground states,” according to Pew.
Separately, a reported backlog in naturalization applications at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) demonstrates a strong tendency in individual ballot box activism. Numbers from the National Partnership for New Americans, an immigration rights alliance group, estimates nearly 730,000 pending naturalization applications at the end of last year. The eye-popping number represents an increase of more than 87 percent since 2015 when President Barack Obama still sat in the Oval Office.
Specific areas of increased backlog include Washington, D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands as well as 19 states around the country, including Colorado, New York, Utah, and Texas among others.
USCIS naturalization numbers hover in the 700,000 to 750,000 range annually. USCIS spokesman Michael Bars claimed the characterization of pending cases as a “backlog” reflects dishonesty and desperation by Trump Administration opponents.
“The current pending workload does not equate to a backlog — it’s a statistic used in the USCIS report to include every application for naturalization filed including those filed in recent days and weeks — and is being inaccurately portrayed as evidence of delays,” Bars says.