In Colorado, the Latino vote is personal and powerful.
“It’s not just a policy discussion anymore; we’re really seeing this become personal for Latino voters,” said Gabriel Sanchez, director of research at Latino Decisions, who presented new polling data from 400 Colorado Latino voters Oct. 10 in the Tivoli.
Political analysts, professors and community activists took part in the presentation and panel discussion that looked at the impact of immigration issues and how Latino voters will influence the 2012 elections. Results showed that immigration reform and the economy were top concerns among Latino voters.
Sanchez cited data from a June 2011, national survey showing 53 percent of Latino voters know an undocumented resident.
“It goes from a policy issue to a personal issue,” said Sonia Gutierrez, MSU Denver senior. “Me knowing many people who these policies affect directly makes it very personal.”
Other survey results indicated bipartisan support among Colorado Latino voters for the Asset bill, which failed in the last legislative session. The Asset bill would create a lower tuition rate for some undocumented students who meet certain requirements. Currently, such students pay the out-of-state tuition rate at most of the state’s institutions. This summer, however, MSU Denver became the first school in the state to adopt a third non-resident tuition rate for undocumented students.
“There’s a moment in our lives when we find out what it really means to be an undocumented student,” said Sergio De La Rosa, a panel member and a leader with the Together Colorado Action Fund. “To understand that you’ve worked extremely hard throughout your entire pre-collegiate life just so when you’re standing outside those doors, you realized, [I] can’t really pay for this.”
De La Rosa has been accepted at MSU Denver for the spring semester.
Data for 2010 shows that 40 percent of Colorado’s population growth came from the Latino community, Olivia Mendoza said. Mendoza, Executive Director of the Colorado Latino Forum, said this means there will be policy and electoral implications for years to come.
“I believe it’s one of the most important rights that we have, here in the United States, to be able to choose who our leaders will be,” De La Rosa said.
Dr. Robert Preuhs, an MSU Denver political science professor, presented new results showing 74 percent of Colorado Latino voters support President Barack Obama and 20 percent support Mitt Romney, with six percent undecided. Preuhs said Colorado Latino voters showed strong enthusiasm for Democratic policy as compared to Republican policy.
Latinos overwhelmingly blame the Republicans in Congress, rather than Obama for a lack of comprehensive immigration reform, Sanchez said. Yet, deportation numbers are at an all-time high under President Obama, and Latino voters are holding him accountable.
“Do you go with the known commodity of President Obama, who you have hope in, or do you go with self-deportation?” Sanchez asked.
Mendoza identified access to affordable education as another key issue for local Latino voters, saying it opens doors and enables them to break the cycle of poverty.
“When we talk about voting, it’s not just about that one day; it’s about every day after that: talking to your elected officials and holding them accountable,” Mendoza said.
The fresh survey results were compiled for America’s Voice by Latino Decisions. America’s Voice is an organization that works for immigration reform, legal status and a path to citizenship for undocumented residents.