Immigrant Voters: A New Energized Political Force
November 04, 2008
Washington, DC – The following is a statement from Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, a non-partisan pro-immigrant advocacy group in Washington, DC.
The excitement that has pushed Americans to register to vote in record numbers has also flourished within the immigrant community. Immigrant bashing and the failure of the broken immigration system have fueled immigrants’ desire to attain citizenship and make their voices heard. As a result, this election will witness massive voter turnout across immigrant communities. This newly awakened, and in many cases newly naturalized, voting force is powerful and focused.
Immigrants are not the only part of the electorate for whom the immigration debate has spurred participation in this election. Latinos—who often perceived the debate as anti-Latino—are predicted to turn out in record numbers. Experts predict that turnout could be 9.2 million, including 2.6 million who will be voting for their first time. First-time voters like Silvia Gonzales, a 20-year-old college student in New York who emigrated from Peru who said, “As an immigrant voter, this election is very important to me. It’s important to be able to have a say, because I know those who would want to vote, but cannot. I will be voting for the candidates who are best able to address immigrant concerns.”
The immigrant voter shares the same concerns as all American voters: the unraveling economy, the war on Iraq and access to healthcare. However, because of their personal connection with the immigrant experience, this group—who along with their children born in the U.S. since 1965 are considered “new American voters”—also views immigration as a threshold issue. That is, they will evaluate a candidate in part based on whether he or she treats immigrants with respect. According to a recent Pew Hispanic Center survey , 75% of Latino registered voters view the immigration issue as “important.” As these new American voters step into the voting booth on November 4, they will deliver a hard response to the hard liners who demonized immigrant communities for their own political gain.
Like the rest of first-time voters, new citizens are excited about exercising the power of their first ballot, including Maria Costelloe, a recently naturalized immigrant from Ireland who said, “Voting gives me the power to participate in the democratic process. This is my way of stating to my adopted country that I feel welcomed here and am grateful for the opportunities my new adopted country has given me."
The most fundamental part of political participation is the simple act of voting, and in this election thousands of new immigrant voters will exercise their right to choose candidates that respect their communities and are committed to push for a pragmatic, just and comprehensive approach to immigration reform.