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Immigration Policy Protests Offer Opportunity for Dems

By Pete Ross

The nation-wide "Day Without Immigrants" demonstrations were a stunning success by at least one measure --- creating a stronger awareness of the enormous potential of Latino political empowerment. This is undoubtedly good news for Dems, who have received healthy majorities of votes cast by Latinos in recent elections, and stand to benefit even more in November. As Ruy Teixeira explains in his January 12 post "Hispanics Bailing Out on GOP," which analyzed a major poll by The Latino Coalition (a conservative group, no less):

Let’s start with the generic Congressional contest. This poll finds Democrats with a stunning 61-21 lead over the GOP among Hispanic registered voters, which translates into a 50 point lead (75-25) among those who express a preference. The analogous figure among those who expressed a preference in the June DCorps poll was “only” 36 points. By way of comparison to the last two off-year elections, 2002 and 1998, Democrats carried the Congressional vote by 24 and 26 points, respectively.

Demonstration organizers have stated that they will now focus on mobilizing voters and strengthening grass roots support for a legislative agenda that benefits undocumented workers. But there are formidable problems in turning out the Latino vote. As Teresa Watanabe and Nicole Gaouette note in today's L. A. Times article, Next: Converting the Energy of Protest to Political Clout":

Organizers have their work cut out for them. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, only 39% of the nation's 41 million Latinos are eligible to vote, compared with 76% of whites and 65% of blacks. And fewer than half of the 16 million eligible Latino voters voted in the 2004 general election.

The article quotes several protest participants stating that the demonstrations have inspired them to become registered US voters. Clearly, the Democratic Party must make the strongest possible effort to help them and millions more achieve this goal.