For months, the rhetoric has been increasingly harsh towards immigrants as political candidates continue to lash out at refugees, the vulnerable families coming from Central America, and even entire religions. The result? Well, among other things, there has been a massive increase in the number of Latinos who say they will vote in the 2016 election.
In the past 12 months, we have also witnessed an influx of lawful permanent residents (“green card” holders) applying to become naturalized U.S. citizens. I have volunteered at numerous citizenship clinics where applicants receive legal assistance preparing their applications. The turnout this year has been astonishing. More and more citizenship events are being held to accommodate the swarm of future voters. People are scared. They are mad. They are hopeful. They are motivated. They are going to vote.
The National Association of Latino Elected Officials estimates that 13.1 million Hispanics will vote in the 2016 presidential election (a large increase from 11.2 million in 2012 and 9.7 million in 2008). The increased turnout is expected to have a substantial impact in swing states and ultimately in selecting America’s new commander in chief. Spoiler alert…according to polls, they are not favorably inclined to vote for anyone who is on the record as anti-immigrant.
As an immigration lawyer, I not only have a visceral reaction to the repeated fear mongering, I also see the real human impact of targeting specific communities. At times, I’ve admittedly felt hopeless and defeated. How many more clients, friends and community members will come to me worried about what happens after the election, whether DACA will continue, whether enforcement will ramp up?
It only becomes more heartbreaking when you hear the fear Hispanics feel for themselves, their families, and their community. While many of the proffered immigration “solutions” are highly unrealistic, the rhetoric is plaguing Americans and their families every day. No, a wall across the border isn’t realistic. No, mass deportation isn’t something America would tolerate, with tens of thousands of new DHS agents barging into homes and terrorizing families. Yes, it would be a colossal disaster to interfere with remittances from the United States to Mexico.
So here’s what I’ve been doing to help in the fight: I am bringing information and resources to communities and I am assisting applicants with naturalization and ultimately creating new voters. In a political arena so hostile towards Latinos, I sleep better at night knowing that my dedicated colleagues and I have helped so many individuals embrace the American Dream through naturalization.
Anti-immigration, separatist ideologies are outdated, generally unrealistic and incongruous with the true global economy. Latinos represent 18% of America’s current population and this rate continues to steadily grow. While Latinos are of course a diverse group of individuals who are not necessarily single-issue voters, the persistent bigoted targeting of their community has become unbearable. This November, tens of thousands of adults, young and old, who have taken that final step toward becoming a citizen get to speak their mind. I’m happy to have been a small part of that effort. And I’ll be voting, too.
By Katie Sarreshteh, Member, AILA Media Advocacy Committee