Over the weekend, 47 years to the day that Martin Luther King Jr. shook the conceptions of race in the United States at the Lincoln Memorial, Latino immigration activists boarded buses from California to Arizona in an attempt to mobilize the Latino vote against the Republican Party.
The effort, mounted by members of the United Farm Workers Union and Promise Arizona, aims to avoid a repeat of a low 25 percent turnout in the recent Arizona primaries for the upcoming midterms now less than 70 days away.
“The stakes are high this November. Even though a judge stopped the worst parts of SB 1070, our community is still feeling the effects, a press release from Promise Arizona said. “Bad policies continue to be proposed and extremist views are becoming more prevalent.”
“Now, more than ever, we need to hold our democracy true to the values of equality, liberty, and true justice for all. This weekend, you can learn how to fight back,” said their call to action that also included a plan to train more than 600 youth campaign volunteers and to conduct massive voter registration drives for November.
According to the local ABC television affiliate in Arizona, Latino activists are hoping to awaken a sleeping giant in their community much like the opposition to California’s Proposition 187 in 1994. With high Latino opposition to the controversial measure, and despite an estimated 67 percent of Californians having supported it, the controversial proposition was killed in court and never took effect.
Reflecting on California’s Prop. 187 and Arizona’s SB1070, both of which Republicans heavily supported, activists in Arizona believe that the party has struck a bad cord with the Latino community. Orlando Arenas, one such activist, said of the Arizona law that “the Republican Party that they can’t be treating the Latino community like that.”
Because of the Arizona law, new and registered Latino voters are probably going to flock to the polls and will be mobilized to send a national mandate reflecting their opposition. Unlike the Prop. 187 days where Latinos organized against Republicans, however, the Latino minority opposed to the Arizona law will have a much more powerful force to reckon with in the form of the Tea Party. Differing from the Hispanic base primarily belonging to Democrats, the Tea Party is not strictly composed of Republicans; rather, it also includes Independents.
This November, the two groups will most certainly spar to either keep the status quo or to change it. Latino voters will have immigration reform on their minds, an issue on which they trust Democrats more than Republicans. Meanwhile, the Tea Party has more issues on their mind than just immigration reform, which inevitably raises their motivation to maximize their utility this fall.
It’s a matter of weeks before we find out which grassroots movement will win out over the other.