2016 could be the year of the Hispanic voter – and the year that turns the tables on several key immigration policies.
This year, 27.3 million Latinos will be eligible to vote in the U.S. That’s a huge jump from 19.5 million in 2008.
Nearly half of those Hispanic voters are millennials (age 35 or younger). Every year, about 803,000 U.S. citizen Latino teens turn 18 and become eligible to vote. And since the last presidential election, more than 1 million Hispanics have become naturalized U.S. citizens, also now eligible to cast a ballot.
The current presidential candidates are proposing several policies that could have a dramatic impact on both immigrant and U.S. citizen Latinos:
Bernie Sanders announced in January that his health care plan would cover undocumented immigrants. Hillary Clinton said in October that she favors allowing undocumented immigrants to buy health care coverage through Obamacare exchanges but not with subsidies.
“Sign comprehensive immigration reform into law to bring over 11 million undocumented workers out of the shadows. We cannot continue to run an economy where millions are made so vulnerable because of their undocumented status.” – Bernie Sanders
Sanders supports allowing DREAMers to pay in-state tuition in college. Clinton seems to support states’ right to choose whether they’ll allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition, but she has not been definitive on this issue.
“I think a path to citizenship for those who are here illegally is profoundly unfair to the millions of legal immigrants who followed the rules.” – Ted Cruz
Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and several other Republicans want to construct a complete border fence. Cruz wants to triple the size of Border Patrol, hiring more than 40,000 new agents.
Several Republicans want to end birthright citizenship. (See the immigration stance of all the candidates in NPR’s excellent chart.)
“There are so many people with deep ties and contributions to our communities, like many parents of DREAMers, who deserve a chance to stay, and I will fight for them, too.” – Hillary Clinton
Not surprisingly given the current candidates’ positions on immigration issues, Latinos have tended to vote Democratic in the last several presidential elections.
That could have huge implications on the 2016 presidential election – if Latinos register to vote and show up at the polls in November.
“Twelve million illegal immigrants, to send them back… is just not possible. And it’s not embracing American values. And it would tear communities apart. And it would send a signal that we’re not the kind of country that I know America is.” – Jeb Bush
In the last presidential election, only 48 percent of Hispanic eligible voters cast a ballot, compared to 64 percent of whites and 67 percent of blacks. In addition, young people are typically less likely to participate in elections than more mature eligible voters. In 2012, only 50 percent of eligible Latino millennials registered to vote.
Register to vote here and help make 2016 the year voters exercised their power to create lasting changes in immigration policy.