Immigrant Power Defines the 2012 Elections

For months leading up to the 2012 elections, OneAmerica staff, volunteers, and members put in the extra hours, mobilizing tens of thousands of immigrant voters who turned out to vote at historic levels. And we won!

We won by electing leaders who ran on pro-immigrant policies and initiatives that support immigrant families. We also won with our message: the principal national narrative coming out of the 2012 elections is the growing power of the Latino and immigrant vote.

Across the country and right here in Washington State, Latino, Asian American, and immigrant voters returned President Obama to the White House and helped decide many other key races in the 2012 election.

OneAmerica, along with other powerful grassroots immigrant rights groups across the country, are working to ensure that President Obama and Congress prioritize comprehensive immigration reform that keeps families together. Without missing a beat, immigrants across America have taken to the streets to demand comprehensive immigration reform, including rallies two days after the election in Seattle, Vancouver, and Yakima.

President Obama has been responding to the power of the immigrant and minority vote and these coordinated demands. He said in his acceptance speech: "And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together — reducing our deficit, reforming our tax code, fixing our immigration system, freeing ourselves from foreign oil. We've got more work to do."

Then, during his first post-election press conference, he added: "I am very confident we can get immigration reform done."

"The President’s re-election was secured by overwhelming support from the immigrant, Asian American, and Latino vote nationally and in several key swing states," said OneAmerica Executive Director Rich Stolz. "These New Americans and their family members want a stronger economy, and they believe in a more inclusive nation ready to finally address our nation’s broken immigration system. We are encouraged that the President has included immigration reform at the top of his second term agenda."

Members of Washington's Congressional delegation have already started announcing support for passing comprehensive immigration reform in the next Congress. Senator Patty Murray and Rep. Adam Smith issued supportive statements immediately after the election and Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid, in a speech laying out his priorities, said of comprehensive immigration reform: "It's very, very high on my list."

In an extensive voter outreach program, OneAmerica mobilized over 30,000 registered immigrant voters, made more than 50,000 calls, knocked on over 5,000 doors, and mailed more than 60,000 pieces of mail in several languages - all of which lead to increased turnout. Specifically, our get-out-the-vote efforts increased Latino turnout by 5.8% within the large pool of infrequent voters we contacted, 4.4% among Asian and Pacific Islander (API) voters, and 8% among Spanish-speaking voters. (We anticipate these numbers will fluctuate as vote counts are finalized.)

How did immigrants and people of color vote? Nationally, a whopping 71% of Latinos supported Obama (27% for Romney), while 73% of API's voted for Obama (26% for Romney). Vast majorities of both groups support comprehensive immigration reform that includes a roadmap for people who aspire to be citizens. 93% of African-American voters supported Obama versus 6% for Romney. (See the exit polling results here.)

To envision what kind of influence these groups had on close races in Washington, consider that 12.7% of the voting population is a combination of API (7.7%) and Latino voters (5%) in our state - and it is growing. The margin of victory in the Governor’s race was 2%.

OneAmerica endorsed Referendum 74 (R74), allowing same-sex couples to get married in our state, and it won, aided by support from within our communities. Nationally, Latino support for marriage equality (59%) was higher than general population of voters (48%) (ABC exit poll).

With each election, OneAmerica builds upon its extensive civic engagement program, increasing the power of our collective voice. We not only get victories at the ballot box, but get thousands more immigrants engaged in the policital process and their communities for years to come.

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