Alliance to register 500,000 immigrants, get a million to polls

One of the main slogans of the massive marches which started three years ago for a just and comprehensive reform of immigration laws was, “Today we march, tomorrow we vote.” Today under the slogan, “My Vote, My Future: Millions Standing up for the American Dream,” the We Are America Alliance will work to make the first slogan a reality by registering half a million Latino and Asian immigrants to vote in time for the upcoming presidential elections this November.

The We Are America Alliance (WAAA), a national coalition of immigration and social justice organizing groupings, made the announce July 10 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, together with leaders of the New Virginians Initiative of Tenants and Workers United in Alexandria, and the National Association of Elected and Appointed Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund.

The voter registration drive will be combined with a comprehensive get out the vote campaign in 13 states to get over one million Hispanic and Asian voters to the polls. According to a WAAA press release, the different member organizations will target young voters under 25, new naturalized citizens and infrequent voters through a door-to-door organizing model. The coalition will also work with the “Ya es hora” campaign sponsored by Spanish-language television and print media, NALEO and the Service Employees International Union urging immigrants to become citizens and enter the electoral process.

The coalition has already started this work holding workshops for volunteers registering new voters and holding voter registration tables during naturalization ceremonies and other events.

Holli Holiday, WAAA executive director, calls the campaign “an unprecedented civil engagement movement involving a multi-ethnic alliance of national, state, and local organizations working together toward a common goal. The partners involved in this effort will be collaborating to mobilize more than one million Latino, Asian, and immigrant voters this election cycle.”

NALEO Educational Fund director Arturo Vargas noted, “Over the past decade, the immigrant electorate has grown significantly. The tremendous turnout in the presidential primaries sent a clear message that the Latino, Asian, and immigrant communities are prime for exercising their growing electoral power.”

The WAAA reported that in a nation-wide poll they commissioned among Hispanic voters that 70 percent said they had voted in the primaries this year. “These findings are extremely significant when considering that primary elections are often characterized by low turnout and participation from frequent and engaged voters. According to the survey, the respondents noted the act of voting as an effective mechanism for changing the political system.”

While the effort is non-partisan and the member organizations are tax-exempt non-profit entities, the significance of what the upcoming presidential elections was not lost on the organizers of this effort. “As the country prepares for an historic presidential election in 2008, one of the major stories after Election Day will be the rise of immigrant voters as increasingly engaged in the political process,” Vargas underlined.