A group of young “DREAMers” intends to throw a wrench into the November election plans by waking up a sleeping giant – American Latinos.
Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus – a group of Latino members of U.S. Congress – and supporters of the national Dream Act stood in the shadow of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., on April 19 to launch the “Su Voz, Mi Voto” campaign.
Undocumented students and their allies will walk door-to-door in their home states telling their personal stories to people who will listen. “DREAMers” looking to pass the Dream Act want to motivate thousands of their Latino neighbors to use their votes as legal citizens to bring in a candidate who will support the immigration reform bill.
Republican front-runner Mitt Romney is known for his anti-immigration stance, while President Barack Obama supports the DREAM Act but has failed to follow through with the passage of the bill first introduced in 2001. The legislation would help qualified individuals go to college or enlist in the military with a path to citizenship they otherwise would not have. In 2010, the National Dream Act reached the U.S. Senate, but was defeated by a Republican filibuster.
Latinos and immigrants – legal and undocumented – want to make their voices heard at the polls. The “Su Voz, Mi Voto” campaign is backed by the DRM Capitol Group, a lobbying firm dedicated to driving campaigns for the adoption of the Dream Act, and the iDREAM organization.
“We’re here to send a strong message to both parties that the Dream Act doesn’t belong to any party,” said Cesar Vargas, 28, DREAMer and managing partner of DRM Capitol Group. “We’re fighting for our community, our families – not for any political party. We want to send a message to end deportation and for them to act and take leadership,” he said.
Today, the Republican primaries hit five northeastern states –- New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Rhode Island. Romney is expected to pick up most of the 209 delegates up for grabs, bringing him much closer to the end goal of 1,144 delegates by November – his ticket to contest for the White House.
While Romney celebrates another primary sweep, dreamers are hoping to leverage 22 million Latino votes toward the more promising candidate.
Rep. Nydia Velazquez of New York wants to see 22 million Hispanic Americans at this year’s polls -– a 25 percent increase from 2008.
“We will hold accountable those who have failed to support these main policies,” Velazquez said.
She added that it wasn’t a surprise that Obama has a 40 percent lead against Romney among Latino voters.
“We will be out there reminding our Latino voters, our Latino community and immigrants in general who stood with us on this important issue,” she said.
In 2008, 19.5 million Latinos were eligible to vote, but half did not cast ballots, because they were not registered or did not turn out.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a councilmember from Chicago and chairman to Immigration Task Force Chairman said it’s an “altruistic” and “noble” task to utilize a vote for group that would be otherwise unheard.
“It’s going to take the hard work of individuals like the ones standing here with us, knocking on doors and getting neighbors who are eligible to vote to get registered,” he said.