Democrat or Republican, the power of the Latino vote in Arizona is here to stay
By: Liliana Soto
PHOENIX — Latinos are one of the fastest-growing groups in Arizona and make up nearly 30% of the state’s population, according to the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan fact tank.
Of that 30%, 24% of Latinos are eligible voters, according to the Pew Research Center.
As votes are still being counted — and eventually certified — in Arizona’s election, what impact, if any, did the Latino vote have on the outcome?
Major news organizations, including the Associated Press, have projected that Joe Biden, now president-elect, would win Arizona, a historically Republican state whose voters had not majorly supported a Democratic presidential candidate since the 1990s.
Hispanic communities in Arizona were expected to have a big part in this year’s election, but is there such a thing as the all-encompassing “Latino vote?”
The reality is that Latinos are not a monolithic group and neither is their vote.
Researchers with the Pew Research Center indicate that Latinos tend to lean more Democratic on the political spectrum, but that there has also been an increase in Republican support.
It is not known how many Latinos voters for Biden or Trump in Arizona because the final votes are still being tallied. But, exit polls from both ABC and CNN estimate that Biden received a higher percentage of support among Latinos in the state.
In the weeks ahead of the election, ABC15 News did a series of reports on the Hispanic communities, including organizations that were encouraging Latinos to register to vote.
Mi Familia Vota was one of those organizations. It is a grassroots organization that has been promoting the Latino vote for the last 15 years.
Director Eduardo Sainz said immigration issues were his biggest motivations in the 2020 election. He joined Mi Familia Vota after seeing how anti-immigrant laws in Arizona, like Proposition 300 and SB-1070, affected his loved ones.
“We knew that not until the day we had real political power would we be able to see the changes in policies and electing officials and those are what we’re seeing today,” he said.
He said his organization registered nearly 200,000 Latino voters in Arizona.
More than 500,000 Latinos were expected to vote in Arizona, according to an analysis by the Neleo Educational Fund, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that encourages Latinos to get involved in the election process.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Sainz. “To see that our community deserves respect and that our community deserves to thrive in this great country.”
“The majority of us saw this as a young age. Things were so miserable that people were forced to pack everything that they owned and move to another state or even Mexico. SB-1070 sparked activism in all of us. We came together to ensure we could build safe communities and have each other’s back,” he said.
Sainz said young Latinos, along with grassroots organizations like LUCHA, ADAC, Aquí Se Vota, Corazón AZ, One Arizona, and others, made a difference in the Latino voter turnout this year.
But, it wasn’t new.
He said it began 20 years ago when Proposition 203, also known as Arizona’s English-only law.
“The law was to get rid of bilingual education. We really saw this as an attack on our community to our language of who we are as individuals and we wanted to fight against it because it was just plainly racist,” said Ray Maldonado, now a high-profile immigration lawyer.
Maldonado said the political power Latinos have is here to stay.
“Those individuals that are in high school or junior high and saw their parents going through a difficult time these last four years, they’re going to be able to vote next time and are going to be organizers. They’re going to be leading organizations and running for office, so this trend is just simply going to continue,” he said.
However, like all groups, concerns and issues vary between each individual. For some, immigration wasn’t the priority issue.
“If anything in this election, Hispanics should’ve been voting for [Donald] Trump. If you compare for example what happened with [former President Barack] Obama in terms of deportations; the first three years, Obama deported a lot more people than Trump did,” said Jose Borrajero, who migrated to the United States at 16 and considers himself to be a longtime Republican.
Anti-immigrant laws in Arizona did not influence his vote, he said.
Going forward, he said the Republic party has to do a better job communicating with the Latino population.
“I don’t think the Republican party has done enough to show how well the Hispanics have done under the Republican rule,” he said.
Until recent years, Cuban immigrants arriving in the states illegally were granted citizenship under the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy.
But, Arizona has a high population of Mexican-Americans, and immigration issues matter to them.
“My best friend died from a heart condition recently. He has a 2-year-old child, and the mom is a DACA recipient. It worries me what could happen to them if DACA gets removed. That’s one of the issues that personally motivated me to vote,” said David Machado, a coach at Aquí Se Vota, an organization that focused on registering Latinos to vote.
He also said that the coronavirus pandemic and job insecurity were also big motivations for him to vote personally — and to mobilize others to vote.
Machado said he contracted COVID-19 and while he was hospitalized, he said his best friend died.
“I lost my job due to the pandemic and I needed a job to survive so I went back to my college job delivering pizzas. I got COVID while working and had to be hospitalized for a month. Doctors told my family to plan for the worst because I was in really bad shape,” he said.