Growing the Latino Vote

Timed with last week’s elections, polling company Gallup announced that Latinos and Asians in the U.S. tend to be registered to vote at much lower rates than non-Hispanic whites and blacks. According to its poll, only 51% of Hispanics in this country are registered to vote and able to participate in the electoral process; those numbers are 60% for Asians, 81% for blacks and 85% for whites.

Although Gallup did not take into account whether poll participants were U.S. citizens or even permanent residents, it concluded that the main factor that determines whether Hispanics register to vote is if they were born here or abroad.

These conclusions, as simplistic as they seem, point to what we contend is the most important thing that an immigrant can do when he or she becomes a U.S. citizen: register to vote. However, we understand that one of the biggest challenges that many Hispanic immigrants face in order to participate in the electoral process is precisely that, gaining citizenship.

The Pew Hispanic Center has said that up to two-thirds of immigrants of Mexican origin who qualify for citizenship decide not to apply for it and choose to remain as permanent residents. The most mentioned reasons are difficulties learning English and the high cost of the citizenship application process itself.

We must intensify our efforts so that all legal residents are able to become citizens sooner than later.The full participation of Latino voters has never been as important as now, when an immigration reform bill is languishing in the House of Representatives.

Let’s remember that all House seats are at stake in the 2014 elections. The Latino vote could —and should— play a crucial role in these elections.