New American voters, Latino and Asian, came out in record numbers to participate in the decision-making process and flexed their power by bringing the immigration issue to the forefront, a controversial and emotional topic that did not receive as much media attention as seen in previous elections. According to CNN, 71% of the Latino vote (10% of the electorate), the highest seen since President Clinton in 1996 and 73% of the Asian vote (3% of the electorate) voted for President Obama hoping for a continued promise to create an immigration process that recognizes the contribution of aspiring citizens. The immigrant community sent a strong message in support of immigrant families, workers, and students and was able to make significant impacts on swing states like Florida, Ohio, and Iowa. Once again, immigrants embraced the influential role they play in American politics and made the difference in the presidential election as well as in state and local initiatives.
In California, Proposition 30 passed with 53.6% of the vote and also passed overwhelmingly in Santa Clara County with 62.10% of the vote bringing much needed relief to local schools that would otherwise face more devastating cuts to education and no more furlough days. With $6 billion in potential trigger cuts to health and human services and education, California voters spoke and forced the state to prioritize programs needed in these tough economic times. Prop 30 will raise the sales tax a quarter percent for the next four years and personal income taxes for the highest earners, resulting in $6 billion in revenues. Immigrants also won other important initiatives such as No on Prop 32 that will protect the interests of workers and No on 31 which would have established a pay as you go system in CA, also giving the Governor unilateral budget-cutting powers if the Legislature doesn’t act within 45 days after a Governor declares a fiscal emergency. Another important local initiative was Measure D, passed in the City of San Jose, which will increase minimum wage from $8 to $10, a necessary change given the cost to live and work in the city and will allow workers to support themselves and their families.
In January of this election year, SIREN re-launched its “New Americans Citizens Vote” campaign to ensure that our newly registered voters take part in the voting process and have a voice in the American political system. SIREN garnered the support and commitment of over 7,125 immigrants to turn out to vote in last night’s election; informed over 35,000 immigrant voters on what was at stake in the November 2012 elections and registered over 1,000 newly qualified voters, exceeding expectations and helping new voters voice their opinions as Americans in this critical time.
In the last four years immigrants have felt the brunt of the economic crisis, and the devastating effects of a record number of deportations, as well as the effects of draconian budget cuts to education, health and human services. Motivated by their desire to see a stronger economy and stronger communities, immigrant voters were reignited to make their voices heard at the local, state and national level.
According to major newspapers and political pundits, there is a re-alignment happening nationally that will tip the political landscape in favor of taking action on immigration. Due to the overwhelming prioritization of immigration in the immigrant community, analysts are saying that there may be more support for creating a comprehensive immigration system and more urgency for Republicans to discuss the issue. A few days after the election, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said they are working together on a plan for immigration reform that will include a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the United States, a step forward after Republicans have repeatedly stonewalled the issue in Congress. SIREN will continue to monitor these efforts and push for immigration reform.
President Barack Obama will be staying in the White House for another four years and the immigrant community will be undeterred to ensure he keeps his promise of creating an immigration process that works for America, keeps families together, strengthens our economy, and recognizes the enormous contributions of a vibrant and culturally rich immigrant community.