Once unwilling to get involved in politics, undocumented workers are now pushing their registered family and friends to use their growing electoral clout in big Hispanic states like Arizona.
Published Aug. 22, 2016
PHOENIX — For years, Cristian Avila would knock on doors and urge Latinos in his neighborhood to register to vote.
And for years, he and his colleagues at the Phoenix outpost of Mi Familia Vota, a national nonprofit that promotes civic engagement within the Latino community, faced steady rejection.
“When we first started, a lot of the people would like slam the doors,” recalls Mr. Avila, who started volunteering with the organization in 2006. “ ‘Oh I don’t want to vote, that’s not for me. I don’t want anything to do about politics.’ ”
But as hostility towards illegal immigration took root in political rhetoric – culminating in Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s calls to build a wall along the US-Mexico border – Avila noticed two things: First, more Latinos began to warm up to the idea of participating in elections.
Second, more undocumented youth began to embrace their role in swaying the vote to their advantage.
“You know, being undocumented, being young, I think we have the motive, we have the passion, and a lot of us have the energy to do this kind of work,” says Avila, 26, a beneficiary of President Obama’s Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy.
“I can’t vote,” he adds, “but I’m making sure all my cousins and my friends are voting for someone who’s going to give me a better tomorrow. So I think my vote just multiplied by five, by ten, whatever it is.”