Thousands of illegal-immigrant youths are at the forefront of national efforts to get immigrant and Latino citizens to the polls next week, the latest demonstration of the increasingly organized and vocal group’s power.
In swing states like Florida, Ohio and Colorado, the young people—often referred to as Dreamers after the failed Dream Act legislation that would have offered them a path to citizenship—are running phone banks, going door to door and approaching students on college campuses to encourage voting. They also are active in California, a Democratic stronghold, and Texas, where Republicans have the edge.
The group is targeting Latinos, the fastest-growing electorate in the U.S., whose turnout at the polls is traditionally lower than that of blacks and whites. Polls show an overwhelming advantage for President Barack Obama among Latino voters, but the Dreamers efforts also could boost Democratic support in state and congressional races, supporters and opponents agree.
“They are winning the hearts and minds of Coloradans through their efforts,” said Julien Ross, executive director of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, which has enlisted hundreds of Dreamers in nonpartisan voter-registration and canvassing drives in the state.
Campaigning by illegal immigrants isn’t against the law. Still, the Dreamers’ activism is frowned upon in some quarters. “For people who aren’t supposed to be in the country in the first place to be deployed for partisan advantage is the last straw,” said Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which supports a curb on all immigration. He added: “The strategic deployment” of illegal immigrants who benefit from the Obama administration program is a “corruption of the political process.”